Two policemen have been arrested in connection with for the abduction of Prof. Kamene Okonjo, Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s mother.
According to Delta State police chief Ikechukwu Aduba, the principal actors in the abduction scenario have contacted the family, confirming reports yesterday that they are throwing balls as regards ransom request.The police yesterday rubbished the earlier report in the week that the abductors had demanded for a ransom of One Billion Dollars, claiming the report had no foundation.
Besides, the abductors are said to have contacted the family.
Details of the conversation with the family and the amount requested remained unknown as this report is being filed.
The family on Monday had made an emotional appeal to the kidnappers to free Queen Okonjo, pleading that the 82-year-old grandmother and community heartthrob was frail in health.
Mrs Okonjo was abducted on Sunday from her home in Ogwuachi-Uku, Delta State by tentate assailants who ambushed around the corner from the main gate of the family house, while two of them mingled with some workmen, fixing an entrance gate of the house.
The police had earlier arrested a suspect, who had just left the palace when the hoodlums stormed the place and kidnapped Mrs. Okonjo.
According to Aduba: “We are not aware of any ransom and we will never support the payment of ransom”.
“For those who believe in the force, we have always rescued their victims unhurt without the payment of ransom. A case in point is the son of the SSG who was rescued without ransom and several other cases.
“We cannot cover up anybody; investigations were carried out and the two police officers who were supposed to be on duty are now in detention,’’ he said.
Aduba said that there were usually insiders in every kidnapping and bank robbery, among others.
He said the police had strengthened its artillery, which led to the arrest of 20 armed kidnapers in the past few days.
For me, we have been doing our best, the state criminal investigation and the State Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) have been able to round up 20 kidnappers of four separate gang.
“We rescued some victims yesterday at Akukwu-Igbo in Oshimili North Local Government Area.
“Also Thursday last week, we intercepted a gang of kidnappers that were heading toward Ogwashi-Uku and we recovered their guns.
“There is a 24-hour patrol in this state and within five minutes of getting distress a call we are there, the kidnap of the Queen is an unfortunate incident,’’ Aduba said.
The commissioner reiterated that those with “hostage value’’ should be very careful and watch their backs.
He advised them to endeavour to report any suspicious movement around them.
He said that security was the responsibility of all, not only for the police force.
“Around lunch time on Sunday, some gunmen came to the compound and forced the gate open and took my mother away. The family is upset and traumatised,” the minister’s younger brother, Onyema Okonjo, told Reuters at the house.
“To abduct a grandmother more than 80 years old is sad. We appeal to them to release her as soon as possible because her health condition is not good,” Onyema added.
Senate President David Mark yesterday urged the abductors to release Mrs. Okonjo.
In a passionate appeal, Mark urged them to honour the time-tested biblical injunction that “we should honour our parents and, by extension, those who are old enough to be our parents”.
In a statement by his Media Adviser Kola Ologbodiyan, Mark said abduction of any Nigerian is condemnable, adding that the abduction is an attack on Nigeria’s international reputation.
Urging the police to ensure the safe release of Mrs. Okonjo, the Senate President said the abductors should be brought to book. “Abductions are causing the nation’s reputation grave harm in the comity of nations,” he said.
Minister of Police Affairs Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (rtd) has instructed Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar to deploy Special Police Officers from the Force headquarters, Abuja to assist in locating and freeing Prof. Okonjo from her captors.
Speaking at the opening of a two-day workshop on ‘Budgeting for Effective Policing in Nigeria ’, the minister said: “It is a very disturbing issue. In unraveling this matter, the police must take into cognizance that we have a role to let others know that such incidents will be given equal treatment. It could have been the mother of anybody’.
“Already, the IGP has deployed his men and they are working round the clock on the issue. The IG is on top of the situation. However, I have instructed the IGP to deploy specialist officers from Abuja if need be, to help in fishing out the culprits”.
The palace of the Obi of Ogwuashi-Uku has been surrounded by policemen since the abduction on Sunday.
Police said someone purporting to be one of the kidnappers phoned on Monday to make some demands, but it was impossible to say whether the call was genuine.
“We have to identify the source of the call … Anybody can make spurious calls and demands,” said Delta State police spokesman Sergie Ezegam, without giving details of who was contacted or what was demanded.
“We still don’t know the reason for her abduction. What we know is that this is a crime, the woman’s life is in danger and we are making frantic efforts to rescue her,” he added.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has received threats in the past, her special adviser Paul Nwabuikwu said on Sunday.
Security operatives have continued to lay a siege to Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State where the Queen Mother of the kingdom was kidnapped.
Security operatives were all over the palace yesterday. Residents in the neighbourhood were restless.