Kidnapped Sierra Leone diplomat regains freedom

A Sierra Leonean diplomat who was kidnapped in northern Nigeria has been freed, officials of both countries said Tuesday.

Retired Major General Alfred Nelson-Williams, Freetown’s defence attaché and deputy head of the country’s mission in Abuja, was abducted last Friday while travelling to the northern city of Kaduna for a military passing-out parade.

He was abandoned by his abductors along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway, the same place where he was kidnapped, by his abductors.

“The diplomat has been reunited with the Sierra Leonean High Commissioner (ambassador) and his family,” Nigeria’s federal police spokesman Don Awunah said.

“We were able to locate where he was kept at about 1500 hours (1400 GMT). He is in sound health.”

News of Nelson-Williams’ release was also confirmed by Sierra Leone’s Deputy Information Minister Cornelius Deveaux, who declined to give further details, adding only that it “was as a result of quiet diplomacy.”

Sierra Leone had sent a special envoy to Abuja to act as an intermediary and open a line of communication between the kidnappers and the high commission, presidential spokesman Abdulai Baytraytay said on Monday.

President Ernest Bai Koroma was in “round-the-clock contact” with his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari, he added.

Sierra Leonean government spokesman Ajibu Jalloh, speaking on national radio, said “Nelson-Williams was released together with his official Nigerian driver, Usaine Fulani, adding that “we still have not got all the facts”.

He assured that the freed diplomat was “looking good and in high spirit for a man who has gone through a tough ordeal.”

No ransom money was paid, he added.

The kidnappers had demanded for a N44m ransom.

Nelson-Williams’s abduction was the first of a Sierra Leone diplomat anywhere in the world since the country gained independence in 1961, foreign ministry sources in Freetown said.

Nelson Williams was appointed in 2013 as deputy high commissioner to Nigeria by President Koroma after the Major’s surprised early retirement from the army.