Militants demand ransom on kidnapped toddler

From Kelvin Ebiri, Port Harcourt (Guardian on Thursday 28th).

KIDNAPPERS of the toddler, Master St. Michael Steward, have demanded an undisclosed amount as ransom for the release of the child. Michael, the son of a Rivers State legislator, Mrs. Linda Steward, was abducted from a private school, Tantua International School, Port Harcourt, on Tuesday.

The whereabouts of St. Michael remains unknown.

A source close to the legislature, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed to The Guardian that the kidnappers had called the parents of the child to demand for an unspecified amount of money.

Three armed young men said to be in their early 20’s, had on Tuesday morning gone to Tantua International School, Elekahia Housing Estate, Port Harcourt, and kidnapped the three-year-old boy.

The source said the parents of the child are apprehensive over his safety and would want him released to them without further delay. According to him, the kidnappers alleged that the child was safe but declined to declare his whereabouts.

He said: “The guys want money from the parents. They are insisting that they must be paid before the child will be returned to his parents. I am not aware if they have issued any threat yet but I can confirm that they are demanding for ransom.”

When contacted yesterday, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu, said he was not aware of any group demanding for ransom from the parents of the child. He said Police investigation into the matter was still on.

Eyewitnesses told The Guardian on Tuesday that the three gunmen, after kidnapping the toddler, drove away in a Mazda saloon car towards Iwofe, one of the most notorious routes of kidnappers who often take their victims to the creeks to evade security agents.

Attempts to reach the lawmaker on phone yesterday proved abortive because her mobile phone was switched off since Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Police in the state have continued a stop-and-search of all vehicles in Port Harcourt and its environs.

St. Michael is the second child to be kidnapped from a private school in Port Harcourt. The first child has since been released to the parents.

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