*** Health ministry activates emergency response strategy on Abuja-Kaduna Highway
Two German archaeologists who were kidnapped in central Nigeria have been freed, a police official said on Sunday.
No ransom was paid when they were freed late on Saturday, the official said, without giving details. The two Germans had been abducted on Wednesday during excavation work at Jajela village in Kaduna state.
The kidnapping took place near a road running between Abuja and Kaduna, which will serve as a temporary entry point for air travelers coming to the capital next month, when Abuja’s main airport will be closed from March 8 for six weeks for repairs.
Abuja-bound travelers will have to make the 100 mile (160 km) journey from Kaduna to Abuja by bus. Several kidnappings have occurred along the road in recent years – one victim, last July, was Sierra Leone’s deputy high commissioner.
Most international carriers have said they will not fly to Kaduna, and some embassies in Abuja intend to minimize staff travel while the airport is being repaired.
Nigerian government has mapped out strategies to ensure commuters’ safety on the Abuja-Kaduna highway corridor as it planned to close the Abuja Airport for six weeks to carry out maintenance work.
That set-up has raised security concerns. Abuja-bound passengers will have to fly to Kaduna and travel in buses, guarded by security, on a road where several kidnappings have taken place in the past few years.
Kidnappings for ransom are a common problem in parts of Nigeria.
The two German archaeologists were kidnapped on Wednesday morning during excavation work at Jajela village, Kaduna state police spokesman Aliyu Usman told Reuters. It is roughly 19 miles (30 km) from the Abuja-Kaduna road.
“The case was reported by locals and we have swung into action to rescue them,” he said, adding that so far there had been no ransom demand or contact from the kidnappers.
“Unfortunately the victims did not go to the site with the policemen attached to them for security,” he added.
A German foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment.
Nigeria’s government had hoped international carriers would use Kaduna during the main airport closure, but many have said they will not fly there as an alternative.
Some embassies in Abuja also intend to minimize staff travel while the airport is being repaired. Last July, Sierra Leone’s deputy high commissioner was kidnapped on the road.
Meanwhile, the initiative by the health ministry was sequel to the recent announcement by the Federal Government to close the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja on the March 8, 2017, for repair of the runway and to transfer its operations to Kaduna Airport.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr.Osagie Ehanire, made the disclosure in Abuja at a news conference to inform the public of the Federal Ministry of Health’s preparedness for the planned temporary closure of the Airport.
He explained that the Trauma and Emergency Response Division of the Federal Ministry of Health had already built a consolidated emergency response plan for Nigerian highways over the past one year. He added that the rising death tolls on the roads underscored the need to coordinate all actors and assets to optimise response to road traffic accidents and other emergencies.
He further stressed that the imminent airport closure gave the impetus to realise this plan and an opportunity to test and develop it for replication nationwide.
Dr.Ehanire said: ‘’Measures to ensure prompt and efficient response to emergencies are pertinent, a road user can find himself a victim when other protective, defensive and safety measures fail; these can be private citizens, members of the business community, government officials and diplomats.
To this end, he said that the Federal Ministry of Health was therefore taking special care to upgrade emergency response and health care services to sustainable, modern standards to support the effort of the Ministry of Aviation.