Enyimba midfielder Dayo Ojo was abducted by gunmen on his way home to Akure, Nigeria on Sunday while traveling in his car, a club official told ESPN, in what turned out to be a troubled day for Nigerian football following the death of Ifeanyi George and two others in a car crash.
Ojo, 25, was abducted along with Benjamin Iluyomode, who plays for Abia Comets in the Nigerian second tier, and a third player, fellow Enyimba teammate Emmanuel James.
James, who managed to get away, confirmed the incident to reporters.
According to James, the car carrying the players — which Ojo was driving — along with a few other commercial vehicles on the route encountered an unknown number of armed gunmen who had set up what looked like a police checkpoint on the busy Benin-Owo road, about three hours from Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
“We were travelling on the road when the gunmen came out from the bush and attacked us,” James said.
“They shot sporadically before abducting some people in the vehicle including the two players but I managed to escape.”
Enyimba confirmed the incident in an official statement on Monday,
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“Enyimba Football Club can announce that midfielder Ekundayo Ojo has been abducted by gunmen along the Benin-Owo expressway,” the club statement read.
“The incident occurred on Sunday, March 22 as the player journeyed to Akure to observe a break following the suspension of the Nigeria Professional Football League amid concerns over the global pandemic, COVID-19.
“Ojo was in the company of Enyimba teammate Emmanuel James, as well as Benjamin Iluyomade, also a professional footballer. While James escaped the attack, Iluyomade was captured alongside Ojo.
“Enyimba FC has since maintained close contact with Ojo’s family, as efforts are already in place to ensure the player’s release from his abductors.
“At this time, and considering the sensitivity of the incident, Enyimba Football Club wishes to call on members of the media to refrain from reports or speculations capable of jeopardising the player’s safety.
“Ojo’s family also wishes to appeal for privacy while enjoining the general public to pray for the safety and freedom of the player.”
NFF President Amaju Pinnick released a statement on behalf of the federation, saying: “We also earnestly appeal to the kidnappers of Dayo and Benjamin to release them unhurt to their families. We are going through too much at the same time, with the coronavirus pandemic also around. We need serious prayers from everyone in the football family.”
Ojo, who has made five appearances for Nigeria’s B side, joined Enyimba at the start of the season from Akure club Sunshine Stars.
Enyimba are fifth on the NPFL table, 13 points behind leaders Plateau United, but have five games in hand.
Nigerian football is still reeling from last Thursday’s armed attack on the Enyimba bus as the team returned to Aba following their NPFL victory over Adamawa United in Gombe, which left forward Cyril Olisema with superficial injuries.