Gunmen have kidnapped an Argentinian national near a farm where he was working in Niger state, north central Nigeria, police said on Thursday. Santiago Lopez Menendez was seized on Wednesday in the town of Machagu as he travelled on the Mokwa to Kontagora road in the west of the state, said commissioner of police Olusola Amore.
“We normally provide protection for all foreigners working on farms and elsewhere in the state,” he told newsmen. “But he (Menendez) chose to travel alone on the bad road without police protection and they kidnapped him.”
The South American, an agronomist, worked for Nigerian Flour Mills Plc managing two farms in the Sunti and Kabbugi districts of Niger state.
At least 10 patrol vans and a special anti-kidnapping team have been deployed to rescue him. State police spokesman Bala Elkana said the potholed road where the kidnapping took place was usually plied by motorcyclists because it is “hardly motorable”. Abductions have previously occurred on the road, he added.
Security officials were scheduled to meet this week to tackle the problem of crime in the area, he added. “We are closing in on the abductors and we are very hopeful to rescue the foreigner,” said Elkana. Argentinian press reports on Wednesday quoted Menendez’s sister and the government in Buenos Aires as confirming the kidnapping.
Kidnapping of foreigners for ransom is common in the oil-rich southern part of Nigeria, with victims usually released unharmed once a ransom is paid.