Chukwudi Chukwu, 38, and Ibeh Bethel Lazarus, 28, allegedly took the dead body of a woman after breaking into the mortuary at Jesus Hospital in Imo state.
They then purportedly contacted the mortuary manager, Bright Nwanshi, to negotiate its release in return for five million naira (£10,600).
“One of the suspects is my former worker,” Mr Nwanshi told the Nigerian Daily Post.
“They asked me to give them N5m. I reported the matter to the police and investigation commenced.”
The suspects were arrested following an operation by the anti-kidnapping unit of the Nigerian police’s Imo state command.
Police also recovered a Suzuki bus allegedly used to carry the corpse.
“Suspects made useful statements to the police confessing to the crime and subsequently led operatives to a forest at Umunjam Mbieri Mbaitoli where the kidnapped corpse was recovered,” the police said in a statement..
“Investigation is in progress while the kidnapped corpse has been released.”
Both men were recently released from jail after serving six and 14 years respectively on kidnapping charges, according to reports.
The suspects, both from the Ikeduru local government area of Imo state, were paraded before the press by the police commissioner Dasuki Galadanchi on Thursday.
“Our strategic offensive against criminals through collaborative efforts with members of the community, credible intelligence and forensic digital analysis has continued to record tremendous successes,” said Commissioner Galadanchi.
“The police command under my watch has resolved to sustain the momentum of the arrest and prosecution of suspected kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists, child traffickers and other criminal elements disturbing the peace of the state.”