Footballer's brother freed after 12 days in Nigeria

Published on Wednesday 16th July 2008

Nigeria: The elder brother of Nigerian and Everton football star Joseph Yobo has been released after being kidnapped by gunmen 12 days ago.

Nornu Yobo was seized at a hotel in Port Harcourt, the main city of the oil-rich Niger Delta region, where kidnappings for ransom are frequent.

Nornu Yobo has flown into Lagos and has been reunited with his family.

Joseph Yobo told the BBC he was happy his brother had been freed safely.

"I feel so relieved and better now. It was a horrible experience that really affected me mentally and physically," he said.

Nornu Yobo was released on Wednesday evening, but it is not clear if a ransom was paid.

Police in Port Harcourt said the hunt for the kidnappers was still on.

Spokeswoman Rita Inoma-Abbey told the BBC they had earlier received a demand for 200m naira ($1.7m, £862,000) for Nornu Yobo's safe return.

"We have the phone number and we're trying to track them down using that," she said.

The Everton star, who is currently in Lagos, said he was grateful for all the support he had received over the kidnapping.

"I just want to say a big thank you to the management of Everton Football Club and the fans for their support.

"Also some close family members here in Nigeria as well as everyone who played a significant role in the safe release of Nornu."

He said he would return to England this weekend.

"I can now take a rest after this sad event," he said.

"I have not had time to really relax after the hectic Premier League season, as well the World Cup qualifiers."

Kidnappings - more often of oil workers - have become a common occurrence in the south of Nigeria.

Although Nigeria is Africa's top oil producer and the bulk of that oil comes from the Niger Delta area, the region remains deeply impoverished, he says.