Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 July 2016
It is seventy-two hours since the former head of Sierra Leone’s military and now the deputy high commissioner to Nigeria, was reported to have been kidnapped by unknown gunmen along the Abuja – Kaduna Highway in northern Nigeria, yet no word has been heard about his whereabouts.
But today the government of Sierra Leone has issued a public statement to quell growing speculations, and stem criticisms of its lethargic and poor response to this shocking tragedy.
President Koroma has been accused of failing to make a public broadcast to the nation to reassure the people of Sierra Leone that everything possible was being done to secure the release of the deputy high commissioner.
He is also being criticised for not convening an immediate cabinet meeting to discuss and plan the government’s concerted and co-ordinated response in support of the Nigerian authorities.
Furthermore, Koroma’s silence and failure to send a high level delegation to Nigeria to meet with the Nigerian authorities has caused dismay among many Sierra Leoneans.
Since the publication of a statement by the ministry of foreign affairs and the subsequent media interview with the minister of information, there has been complete information blackout about this national crisis, or as many would argue – international crisis. (Photo: Kidnapped retired head of Sierra Leone military – Alfred Claude Nelson Williams).
The kidnappers are believed to be demanding a $40 million ransom payment, which Sierra Leone can ill-afford. The country is close to bankruptcy.
The IMF last week approved a $34 million loan to help the government meet some of its basic spending commitment, which does not include the payment of ransom to Nigerian criminals.
The government of Nigeria too is keeping tight-lipped about the kidnapping. But judging by its grotesque failure to secure the release of 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, few have faith and confidence in the Nigerian government’s ability to successfully negotiate the release of Sierra Leone’s deputy high commissioner.
Tonight, the question that continues to be asked is whether the kidnapping of deputy high commissioner retired major general Claude Nelson Williams was random, or a planned operation by people working at the Sierra Leone high commission in Abuja? (Photo: Missing Nigerian girls).
Although Nigeria is becoming notorious for the increasing number of high profile kidnappings, it is of little comfort to the family of retired major general Claude Nelson Williams, whose safety and health is now a cause for serious concern.
How well is he being treated by his kidnappers? If he is on medication, is he being allowed to take them? He is being emotionally and physically tortured?
While the answers to these questions may be unknown, what is clear is that after seventy-two hours of his kidnap, the Nigerian nor the government of Sierra Leone are any wiser about his whereabouts and when the retired major will be released.
This is what State House in Freetown said in a statement published this evening:
“Following confirmed reports of the kidnapping of Sierra Leones deputy high commissioner to the federal republic of Nigeria, major general (rtd) Alfred Claude Nelson-Williams on 1st July, 2016, the government wishes to inform the general public that:
“Government is working with the competent authorities in the government of the federal republic of Nigeria with a view to securing the release of the deputy high commissioner;
“The Nigerian government has assured the government of Sierra Leone that it is doing everything possible to ensure the deputy high commissioner’s safe return;
“Government continues to maintain direct contact on the matter with our high commission in Abuja as well as the family of the deputy high commissioner in Freetown;
“Government is dispatching a high-level delegation to Nigeria led by the minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, for the purpose of pursuing collaborative efforts with the government of the federal republic of Nigeria in resolving the problem.
“Please be assured that government will endeavour to update the general public on new developments concerning the situation as they unfold.”
State House sources told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that the government’s high level delegation to Nigeria will include top operatives from the police, the secret and intelligence services and the military.
I am surprised this matter has not been brought to the international arena. We all know Sierra Leone is not equipped for circumstances such as this. The Nigerians have not even been able to secure the release of the 200 school girls kidnapped in Nigeria.
The people who kidnapped the deputy High Commissioner have asked for a ransom to be paid. We all know this type of bargaining for the release of hostages has never been acceptable to any government.
Also, I reiterate what I said in my last comment i.e the snail’s pace at which things are done in Sierra Leone. I am walking in this man’s shoes right now when it comes to getting things done. It takes forever, and never gets done in the end. May God be with him at this critical time.
I end by saying my thoughts and prayers are with the deputy High Commissioner and his family at this critical time.