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Nigerian Kidnappers Demand Ransom for Canadian Hostage

Nigerian kidnappers are demanding $136,000 in ransom in exchange for the freedom of a Canadian woman abducted last week in the northern city of Kaduna. It was believed to be the first case of its kind in the predominantly Muslim northern region.

The Nigerian police say the kidnappers had initially offered to free the Canadian woman held since last week for nearly $700,000 ransom. They were prevailed upon to accept a much lower fee, and it appears the kidnappers will not accept anything less than $136,000.

Police spokesman in Kaduna, Aminu Lawal, told VOA investigations are continuing.

"Like I said, investigation is still on into the matter," said Lawal.

The kidnapping of the Canadian woman, named as Julie Ann Mulligan, 45, one of five Canadians on a Rotary exchange program in Nigeria, was believed to be the first abduction-for-ransom incident in Nigeria's Muslim-dominated north. The attack has provoked angry reactions from the local people.

Kidnappings, mainly of oil workers, are fairly common in the southern Niger Delta, and an increasing number of abductions are being reported in other parts of the south. A former secretary general of the commonwealth and one of Nigeria's most respected diplomats, Emeka Anyaoku, says the increase in kidnappings represents a critical security challenge for the authorities.

"Today, the phenomenon has spread beyond the Niger Delta region. There had been reported kidnappings and ransoms paid for victims in states that are outside the Niger Delta region. And this poses a key challenge to the federal and state authorities in the country," said Anyaoku.

Ms. Mulligan was seized at gunpoint Thursday while returning from a Rotary meeting, in the company of a local man, Moses Kader. The attackers took her to an unknown destination. Mulligan's group arrived in Kaduna the day before the kidnapping.

The United Nations says 70 percent of Nigerians survive on less than one dollar a day, life expectancy is 46 years and youth unemployment is as high as 80 percent.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission says most of the more than $400 billion in oil revenues generated in the past five decades was stolen by a succession of military and civilian regimes.

Amid the poverty and corruption, kidnappings for ransom, crude oil theft and extorting protection money have become a viable industry.