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Sierra Leone News:Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria speaks at State House

HE, Alfred Nelson-WilliamsAlfred Nelson-Williams, the Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria who was kidnapped for five days while on a diplomatic trip to Northern Nigeria, recounted some of his story at a midday press conference at the Freetown State House building on July 11. Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Abdulai Barraytay, spokesman for the president, also spoke and answered questions at the press conference.
Nelson-Williams was kidnapped on June 30 while travelling along the Abuja Korona highway on the way to a military ceremony in Nigeria, which was attended by two Sierra Leonean officials. The identity of the kidnappers remains unknown, Kamara said. After intense pressure on the criminals from the Nigerian police, Nelson-Williams was released along the same highway on July 5. He was released in good health.
On the morning of July 1, President Koroma instructed the High Commissioner to cooperate with Nigerian authorities to secure Nelson-Williams’ release. The president called a meeting with the National Security Council, and introduced Nelson-Williams’ family to members of the Council. Koroma then sent a delegation to Nigeria to work with Nigerian authorities. The delegation returned to Freetown on July 10.
Nelson-Williams took the podium to recount some of his story. He began by thanking God, and President Koroma for securing his release. “The president did not leave any stone unturned,” he said.
Nelson-Williams told of how he stopped when he came upon a checkpoint in the road. His kidnappers opened fire. “My life was threatened,” he said.
The president’s spokesman later stated that the checkpoint Nelson-Williams stopped at was not an official one, and the kidnappers could not have known he would be there.
The president’s spokesman said one result of the kidnapping incident was a strengthening in relations between Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
When it came time for questions from the press, the authorities present at the press conference refused to answer whether Nelson-Williams was released from the custody of his kidnappers or, as rumor had it, he escaped. “There are certain security implications, and we don’t want to jeopardize them,” the Presidential Spokesman Barraytay said.
Foreign Minister Kamara said that the government did not pay a ransom for the release of Nelson-Williams.
Answering a question about lessons learned from the kidnapping incident, Kamara said the government should make sure to provide enough security for diplomats like Nelson-Williams, and find ways to better communicate with diplomats while they’re travelling.
Addressing a question about what the government can do to prevent such incidents from happening in the future, Kamara said part of the solution involves Nigeria cracking down on kidnappings within the country, noting that kidnapping has become a worldwide problem. Nigerian authorities are currently working to apprehend those responsible for these kidnappings, he said.
Karama said he was not aware of any plans on the part of President Koroma to withdraw from Nigeria as a result of this incident.
The conference finished with Deputy High Commissioner’s wife Gloria Nelson-Williams addressing the press. She first praised the government of Sierra Leone. “They listened to us, and they expressed love and care to the family,” she said. She also thanked the people of Sierra Leone at home and abroad, the Nigerian government and the international community for their help in releasing her husband.
By Chetanya Robinson
Tuesday July 12, 2016

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