It’s been three days since the kidnap of Prof. Kanene Okonjo, mother of Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and media reports have said that negotiations have begun with the kidnappers. It was earlier reported that the kidnappers demanded $1 billion ransom for her release, but after the family made it clear they could not pay the amount, the demand for N200 million was made.
The 82 year-old woman was abducted on Sunday 9th December 2012, at the gate of the palace of the traditional ruler of Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, Prof. Chukwuka Okonjo, who is her husband.
ThisDay reports that the abductors who telephoned the family at noon on Monday, initially demanded to speak with Okonjo-Iweala, but were not allowed to do so. Rather, they were made to speak with the eldest son of the victim, Onyema, who relocated to Ogwashi-Uku on Monday to coordinate the release of his mother.
However, the Minister, who was also ready to travel to Ogwashi-Uku, was advised against the trip by the Delta State Government and security agents. Here is an excerpt from the news report:
It was learnt that the abductors first demanded the resignation of the minister as a precondition for the release of her mother.
Security sources said Onyema, however, insisted on speaking with his mother to ascertain the state of her health and to be sure that he was not dealing with impostors before he could negotiate with the abductors.
After he had spoken with his mother, whom sources said was alive and well despite the trauma, the kidnappers changed their demand by asking Okonjo-Iweala to bring the money the Federal Government had recovered from oil marketers who had abused the fuel subsidy scheme.
Further negotiations with the kidnappers made them reduce the ransom from N1 billion to N200 million, it was learnt. “We are waiting and hope that progress can be made,” one of the sources told THISDAY.
The state Commissioner of Police, Ikechukwu Aduba, however denied the report that the kidnappers were demanding $1 billion ransom. He added that the police had arrested the queen’s police orderly, who was supposed to be on duty on the day she was kidnapped, another policeman and two domestic staff in the palace over the incident.
Demanding for the resignation of the Minister and asking her to bring the money the Federal Government had recovered from oil marketers who had abused the fuel subsidy scheme brings another twist to the story.
We only hope and pray the aged woman is released soon.