Nigerian Christian Obodo (18) jubilates after scoring the first goal during the knock-out round football match between Nigeria and Zimbabwe in the Group D of the African Nations Cup (CAN) in Port Said, north of Cairo 27 January 2006. Nigeria won the match 2-0. AFP PHOTO/ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Former Nigeria midfielder Christian Obodo, who spent over a decade in Serie A, including spells with Fiorentina and Udinese, said Monday that he had escaped from suspected kidnappers in the country’s oil-rich Delta state.

Obodo was driving around the southern city of Warri on Sunday when he said two armed men forced themselves inside his car.

“They pushed my girlfriend out of the car,” he told AFP by phone, adding that a third gunman drove in a car behind them.

“I was praying and trying to hold a conversation with them asking them what have I done, but they barked at me and told me to keep quiet and that if I make any sound I was going to be killed.”

The 36-year-old who was a regular in the Nigeria team between 2003 and 2008, described how they drove around town for several hours until the two men asked him to stop the car and stepped out to go and speak with their accomplice in the car behind.

“I looked behind and sensing a little ease, I sped off,” he said.

Police spokesperson Onome Onowakpoyeya confirmed that Obodo was briefly abducted and released.

“I wasn’t harmed in any way and nothing was taken from me,” said Obodo.

Kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs are common in Africa’s most populous country, in particular in the oil-producing Delta region.

Obodo was abducted in the same area in 2012, and rescued a day later in a police raid. His kidnappers had demanded a ransom of about $188,000 (149,000 euros).

Obodo was 17 when he moved to Italy in 2001 to play for Perugia. He later appeared for Fiorentina, Udinese, Torino and Lecce before moving to Dynamo Minsk in 2014.


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Ex-footballer Obodo escapes from Nigeria kidnappers