Friday, December 14, 2012

Nigerian Authorities Arrest 63 in Search for Mother of Finance Minister

63 arrested over minister mother’s kidnap

Thursday, 13 December 2012 21:12 From Hendrix Oliomogbe (Asaba), Niyi Bello( Akure), Iyabo Lawal, (Ibadan), Bola Olajuwon and Odita Sunday (Lagos) with agency report
Nigerian Guardian

EFFORTS to free the abducted 83-year -old mother of the Finance Minister, Prof. Kemene Okonjo continued Thursday as the army said it had arrested 63 people in raids.

Also, the Delta State Police Commissioner, Ikechukwu Aduba has said that friends and family members may not be unconnected with the abduction.

Meanwhile, four persons, Gideon Oladimeji, Agbavwe Ejamufewani, Joel Udi and another not identified by name, who were alleged to have abducted one Idris, the younger brother to the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Alli Olanusi, were yesterday paraded by the state Police Command after a successful mission to secure the release of the victim.

In the same vein, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, has said that frantic efforts are being made to rescue abducted wife of the former governor of old Western Region, Gen. Oluwole Rotimi, without any harm coming to her.

Mrs. Titilayo Rotimi was abducted on Monday evening in Ibadan by some unidentified persons.

The latest detentions were in oil-producing Delta State.

“Yesterday (Wednesday), the 4 Brigade raided Ogwashi-Ukwu in search of Mama,” army spokeswoman Roseline Managbe told Reuters.

“Those arrested are being questioned,” she added.

Two policemen were also arrested this week on suspicion of aiding the kidnappers of Okonjo.

Aduba told reporters in Asaba Thursday that the police were beaming its searchlight inward for some moles within the Okonjo household who may have had a hand in the deed.

Prof. Okonjo was kidnapped by a 10-man armed gang from the traditional ruler’s palace on Sunday afternoon and whisked to an unknown destination in a Volkswagen car.

He said that full police investigations was being extended to the members of Mrs. Okonjo’s family inclusive of palace guards that were expected to be in place as it was the domain of the custodian of the peoples’ culture/tradition.

Aduba added that if officers from the Ogwashi Uku Divisional Police Headquarters for any obvious error or lapses on their part were indicted by evidence, irrespective of rank or status, they would be made to face the full wraths of the law.

He said: “While officers and men of the Command and other security agents have fully mobilised to ensure her early and safe release from the hands of the vicious kidnappers who sacrilegiously abducted her from her sacred palace; the Command is also beaming its searchlight inward for possible insiders’ action that had often manifested in over 80 per cent of recorded cases of kidnapping.”

Also, palace spokesman, Chief Lawrence Okolobi, denied that the family had opened negotiations with the kidnappers, stressing that the matriarch of the Okonjo family, a retired professor of Sociology, was being held incommunicado.

Okolobi said that the palace was at a loss as regards the stories in some national dailies, which had it that the kidnappers had slashed their ransom to N200 million from their initial demand of $1 billion.

He said: “I am not aware of any on-going negotiation for ransom. I read the reports in the papers just like you probably did. The palace has not opened negotiations with anybody. It is not true.”

Similarly, former Attorney-General of Nigeria and Judge of International Court of Justice (ICJ), Prince Bola Ajibola, has asked the Federal Government to find solutions to the perennial problem of insecurity.

According to him, insecurity was now making things very difficult with the high profile kidnapping of mother of the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and wife of Brig.-Gen. Oluwole Rotimi (rtd).

To him, “the Federal Government must stop all these recklessness.”

Ajibola spoke in his remarks as chairman at the 51st Founders Day Anniversary of Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos yesterday.

In a related development, the Obi of Owa kingdom, Dr. Efeizomor II yesterday called for the minister’s mother’s release.

The monarch who is the paramount ruler of over 15 communities in Ika Local Council of Delta State, said he was amazed at the action of the kidnappers, describing it as an insult to womanhood.

He added: “On behalf of the Royal Fathers of Delta State and in particular the Royal Fathers of Delta North Senatorial District, I sincerely wish to appeal to the kidnappers of the Queen-Mother to immediately and unconditionally release her safely.”

Idris, who is also an aide to the deputy governor, was abducted in Akure last week and taken to a forest near Ido-Ani, Ose Local Council of the state some 150 kilometers from where he was picked up.

The police commissioner listed the items recovered from the hoodlums to include one AK 47, six magazines of AK 47, 201 live ammunition, one burnt Toyota Camry car, two sticks of dynamites and a Volkswagen bus.

The three suspects however confessed to the offence, saying they were lured into crime by poverty and their friend who is now at large.

But the Police Commissioner said efforts are ongoing to bring other suspects to book, informing that three other suspects have been arrested by the police command in Edo State.

He however informed that the command had foiled so many armed robbery and kidnap attempts in the last few months, saying the command will not rest on its oars to rid off criminals in the state.

According to him, “we are determined and prepared to make this state unhabitable for kidnappers and other criminals, as it has been professionally demonstrated through proactive approach and from the above achievements, that the command has all it takes to uncover any plot by any criminally minded persons that may plan to disturb the peace of this state.”

Author of this article: From Hendrix Oliomogbe (Asaba), Niyi Bello( Akure), Iyabo Lawal, (Ibadan), Bola Olajuwon and Odita Sunday (Lagos) with agency report.

Okonjo-Iweala’s mother: 63 arrested in military raid

Posted by: Shola O’Neil, Warri and Okungbowa Aiwerie, Asaba
December 14, 2012
The Nation, Nigeria

WITH 63 suspects arrested yesterday by the military, the battle to free Prof. Kamene Okonjo, the kidnapped 82-year-old mother of Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is getting more serious.

Two policemen had earlier been arrested. Besides, a man was picked up immediately after Mrs Okonjo’s abduction on Sunday in her home in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State.

Delta Police Commissioner Ikechukwu Aduba said yesterday that “insider collaboration” was suspected in the crime.

“Yesterday, the Four Brigade raided Ogwashi-Ukwu in search of Mama” army spokeswoman Roseline Managbe told Reuters.

“Those arrested are being questioned,” she added.

Managbe confirmed that two Lebanese men working for the construction company, Setraco, were abducted on Tuesday in Delta State by gunmen who killed a soldier protecting them.

“It could be my turn tomorrow,” said Tony Agwu, who lives near Okonjo’s house.

“It’s a terrible situation down here. The security agents in the Delta are compromised,” he added, voicing the widely held view that security forces are often complicit.

December is believed to be the most dangerous month for kidnapping when criminals need money to buy Christmas presents.

“Everybody else learned that you don’t pick the most high profile. It’s not worth it. This might not end well for them,” Agwu said.

A security source in Delta State said Mrs. Okonjo was involved in local politics and snatching her may have been a scare tactic.

Delta police chief Aduba said as a result of suspected insider collaboration, investigation is being extended to members of the victim’s family, including palace guards.

Aduba said the Divisional Police Headquarters, Ogwashi-Uku, will also be investigated for any obvious lapses.

He expressed regret at the kidnap, saying the police and other security agencies have been fully mobilised to ensure her early release.

Aduba, who spoke to reporters in Asaba, the state capital, said the SARS team, acting on a tip-off, arrested three suspects after they were trailed to a black spot within the metropolis.

He identified the suspects as Uchenna Ugo, John Adaeze and Samson Okoro.

Items recovered are one locally made revolver pistol and 17 rounds of live ammunition.

According to Aduba, efforts are on to identify the intended target and arrest other gang members.

He said operatives arrested two suspects with explosives in a mission to blow up Otorogu Gas Plant, Ughelli South Local Government.

Aduba said two suspects, John Orere and Godwin Anoke, were arrested.

The police boss said an 11-man gang dispossessed Ejakpaghene Baron of his belongings worth N1.643, 500 million, including a laptop valued at N103, 000 and a Honda Accord car valued at N1.3 million and N280,000.

Other items include a handset worth N50, 000, a neck chain valued at N7, 000 and a wrist watch.

He said the police acting on a tip-off in collaboration with the local vigilance group arrested five suspects, Peter Idowu, Apkomedaye Emmanuel, Eriga Omovoro, Nyariviro Osio and Isaac Okpogbodu.

Also a former Vice-Chairman of Okpe Local Government of Delta State, John Ikwarsi has been kidnapped in Adeje, Warri/Sapele Road, Okpe Local Government.

The kidnap suspects were said to have demanded N4 million.

The family could not be reached for comments.

A prominent Warri, Delta State lawyer, Mr. Casely Omon-Irabor, was yesterday arrested in connection with a kidnap case.

Omon-Irabor, who is the coordinator of Human Rights Defenders, was picked up in Warri barely 24 hours after he facilitated the surrender of over 100 former members of the late John Togo-led Niger Delta Liberation Force.

Police sources said he was arrested while attempting to bribe the police with N700,000 to facilitate the release of a kidnap suspect.

Police Public Relations Officer in the state command, Mr. Charles Muka, hinted that the lawyer’s arrest was in connection with high profile kidnapping cases. It was not clear if he was specifically linked with Prof Okonjo’s kidnap.

Muka, who spoke to newsmen on telephone, said: “Yes we have him (Omon-Irabor) in custody. He was negotiating for the release of a kidnap suspect. He wanted to bribe a policeman to release the suspect so the policeman played along with him and he took the money N700, 000 cash alongside with the family members of the suspect to the house of the policeman. So, that was why he was arrested and he is being interrogated.”

“Moreso, he said he knows 30 percent of kidnappers in the state and he would continue to defend them,” the police spokesperson added.

Attempts to speak with the lawyer last night were unsuccessful as his mobile phone was switched off.

OKONJO-IWEALA’S Mother: Army arrests 63 suspects

On December 14, 2012
12:30 am
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Austin Ogwuda and Festus Ahon
Nigerian Vanguard

ASABA—As security operatives intensified search for Professor Kamene Okonjo, the mother of Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was abducted last Sunday from her home, the Nigerian army said yesterday that 63 people have so far been arrested over the kidnap.

According to Army spokeswoman, Roseline Managbe who spoke with Reuters.”Yesterday the Four Brigade raided Ogwashi-Ukwu in search of Mama, and 63 people were arrested in the raids.

“Those arrested are being questioned,” she added.

Residents of the area, where Okonjo-Iweala’s mother was abducted, now reportedly live in fear of the near daily abductions.

“It could be my turn tomorrow,” said Tony Agwu, who lives near Okonjo’s house.

“It’s a terrible situation down here. The security situation in the Delta is disturbing,” he added, voicing the widely held view that security forces are often complicit.

“Around this time during Christmas I start to get worried,” said Shopia Oko-Akoko, a civil servant and mother of two in Bayelsa State, adding that she often looks over her shoulder entering her car.

“Many times I’ve seen cars following me. Once someone followed me on foot and I ran off in terror as he approached.”

Okonjo’s kidnapping is a risky strategy for the abductors

“If it’s just a kidnap for ransom, then they’re not the smartest boys in the world,” said Peter Sharwood-Smith, Nigeria country manager of security firm Drum Cussac.

“Everybody else learned that you don’t pick the most high profile. It’s not worth it. This might not end well for them.

“Kidnapping is worse than during the militancy period, but it’s mostly rich Nigerians who pay up and you never hear about it,” Sharwood-Smith said.

Political motives have been suggested for the abduction. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s drive to reform a corrupt economy ruffled powerful vested interests, especially fuel importers.

“Whatever the motive, the main cause is joblessness,” said Felix Osaduwe, a student in Delta state. “Get them jobs in a bank or a firm, there’s no way they’ll turn to kidnapping.”

Two policemen who were supposed to be on duty guarding the palace but were not on duty at the time of the kidnap are also in detention. It was gathered that a contact has already been established with the kidnappers who reportedly reduced the ransom being demanded as a pre-condition for her release from $1 billion to N200 million.

According to sources, the reduction in the ransom followed the negotiation between Onyema, one of the sons of the abducted woman and the kidnappers.

Meanwhile, Police in Delta State are investigating the involvement of three suspected kidnappers who were arrested on their way to Ogwashi-Uku on Sunday, December 9 morning, the same day Professor Kamene Okonjo, the 82-year-old mother of the Minister of Finance, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was abducted by a 10-man kidnap gang in broad daylight.

Aduba confirms arrest of suspects

DeltaStateCommissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, who confirmed the arrest of the three suspected kidnappers, however, said the police have not established their involvement and otherwise with the gang that seized the queen mother.

His words, “It (kidnap of Professor Okonjo) was really a setback because that same day, we were able to round up three young men that were heading to Ogwashi-Uku for a kidnap.

“One of them was armed. Nobody knows their identification, they were unidentified, three of them and they are still with us. There is going to be a press conference and you will see them. So that is the thing, honestly, it took every person by surprise.” he added.

SSG meets with service providers

Secretary to the Delta State Government, Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay, yesterday, in Asaba met behind closed doors with communication service providers.

The details were not made public, but it was believed that the discussions centered on how they could help in providing timely information on the call log of kidnappers and communication made by kidnappers to relations of their victims and other related matters.

Police parade 26 kidnappers

Commissioner Aduba, who addressed reporters in Asaba, yesterday, paraded about 26-suspected kidnappers that were arrested in the last few months by the police and assured that the police were doing everything possible to ensure a crime-free yuletide.

Adopt personal security measures

On why the palace was porous security wise, he said: “I don’t want to join issues with anybody. I visited the monarch on Thursday, (December 6), there was no complaint of such that bothers on security. In a palace, there are supposed to be palace chiefs, there are supposed to be palace guards. The Emir of Bauchi, can you enter his palace? I am asking. The Sultan of Sokoto, can you enter his palace”?

kidnappings: US officials meet Kuku

Concerned by the rising wave of high profile kidnappings in the Niger Delta Region, officials of theUnited states of America’s Department of State met the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, inAbuja, yesterday, to discuss ways to stem the tide.

Mr. Neal Kringle who led a three-man delegation of the meeting said his office was prepared to collaborate with the Kuku team to ensure a peaceful Niger Delta, which he considered a pre-condition for the desired rapid development of the region.

OKONJO-IWEALA’S Mother: Operatives in contact with kidnappers

On December 13, 2012
12:00 am
BY Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Austin Ogwuda & Festus Ahon
Nigerian Vanguard

ASABA— FOUR days after the kidnap of Prof Mabel Kamene Titi Okonjo, 82 –year-old mother of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State, a contact has been established with her kidnappers who have now reduced the ransom being demanded as a pre-condition for her release from $1 billion to N200 million.

According to sources, the reduction in the ransom, followed the negotiation between Onyema, one of the sons of the abducted woman and the kidnappers.

A highly-placed security source confided in Vanguard, yesterday, that negotiation had commenced with the kidnappers because of the fragile health of the retired professor of sociology,UniversityofNigeria, UNN, Nsukka, who hail from Obomkpa in Aniocha North Local Government Area of the state and pressure from higher quarters.

Vanguard learnt that information on negotiation with the kidnappers was being hoarded even among the key security agencies involved in the operation to secure her release.

“I told you that the information is hoarded, so why are you asking me who is doing the negotiation and what amount, I do not know”, the source said in an answer to a question.

Two of the agencies are on one side, while one is on the other side because of allegations of mistrust.

Police confident on Okonjo’s release

Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, who spoke to Vanguard in Asaba, yesterday, after a meeting with his Divisional Police Officers, DPOs, sounded confident that freedom will soon come the way of the queen mother of Ogwashi-Uku.

Asked the reason he exuded so much confidence, he said: “You know already in the state, the synergy is there, the police, military and SSS and we are working together to make sure that Mama is rescued unhurt.”

His words: “We do not want to go into sensationalism. As far as we are concerned, we are beaming our light everywhere. We are looking at the whole place because in any palace, there are supposed to be palace guards – that is local security before you talk of that of the police.

“And so, we are looking at the obvious flaws and then, take the necessary action. But everything that has to do with the kidnap saga, investigation is still on. We do not want to jump the gun, but certainly, in the past, we have been able to rescue about 30 people without payment of ransom”, he added.

He mentioned the sister of the Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, who was kidnapped in Warri; son of the Secretary to the Delta State Government, Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay and many others.

“I am sure the strategy we are putting in place will yield dividend, but all the same, if you hoard information, it becomes difficult because most times, people are not patient with us. Particularly, there must have to be trust. If there is no trust, how can we move forward?

“If you trust that we will actually rescue, then you do not have to chicken out with information because we know that anything that has to do with kidnapping, there is always an insider factor. It has always been there. Just like armed robbery, it is either they give information to people to come into the house when there is large sum of money, same thing with kidnapping”, he said.

Aduba disclosed that it was a difficult thing, but the police have extended their dragnet within and without.

Investigations by Vanguard also showed that the kidnappers and security agents appeared to be drawn in a battle of wits, as both sides strategically study the operational moves of the other to avoid being caught unawares.

Why two policemen were detained

On the two policemen that were arrested, he said they were supposed be on duty at the time of the incident but they were not there.

He said they have to explain why they were not on duty at that time, adding that the police have nothing to hide and he was in the state to do a thorough job.

According to him, he was with the monarch, Obi Chukwuka Okonjo, three days before the kidnap, at his Ogwashi Uku home, and he did not complain about security.

“His only complain was on the issue of bail and I assured him that it will be sorted out with the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, in charge of the area”, he said.

A source said that the kidnappers decided to postpone contact with the Okonjo family as a result of heavy deployment of policemen, army and other security operatives around the palace and the community immediately after the kidnap

By yesterday, it was, however, observed that the heavy security presence in the last few days around the home of the Okonjos in Ogbe-Ofu quarters has been relaxed, leaving a few policemen in the compound.

No visitors allowed

But the policemen refused visitors access to the compound, saying, “no visitor is wanted here”. Only the workers fixing interlocking stones in the compound were seen working yesterday.

In Ogwashi-Uku town, where there was uneasy calm on Sunday and Monday over the kidnap of the queen mother, people were seen going about their normal businesses, yesterday.

Worry over Okonjo’s health

A reliable source said the biggest worry of the Okonjo family now was the health condition of the victim, which could be quite fragile at her age.

The governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has reportedly deployed resources and reached out to a lot of persons and groups that could help with information on the kidnappers and their whereabouts, but in all, the security agencies are working round the clock.

Also, yesterday, traditional chiefs that make up the Obi-in-council met behind closed doors at the palace grounds in connection with the kidnap of the Obi’s wife.

The meeting, which began at about 10.00 am lasted about three hours, but the security around the palace remained tight

Undercover security operatives flooded drinking joints, markets and public places in search of useful information.

At Ughelli, where a soldier was killed and a Lebanese engineer, working for Setraco Nigeria Limited, the construction firm handling theEast-West Roaddualization project, Mr. Harry Fadi, was abducted on Tuesday, security has also been beefed up

As at the time of filing this report, men of the Military Joint Task Force, Police, and local vigilante were seen patrolling and mounting road blocks apparently hunting for the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

Our correspondent, who visited the council secretariat at about 1.00 pm, yesterday was told that the council chairman, Chief Friday Akpoyibo was in a meeting with security chiefs in the area.

Contacted, the Public Relations Officer of Setraco in Ughelli, Mr Edmund Eke said the suspected kidnappers were yet to establish contact with the company. Expressing sadness at the incident, he appealed to security agents in the area to step up effort at tracking down the suspected hoodlums.

Reacting to the incident, Youth Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state, Chief Arthur Akpowowo described the incident as unfortunate.

While condemning the killing of the soldier and the kidnap of Mr Fadi, Akpowowo urged the police and other security agents to spread their drag net across all nooks and crannies of the state and beyond with a view to apprehending the suspected abductors.

He said the kidnap of expatriates attached to “Setraco that is working on the East/West road is not good for our image. This is a road we all have been yearning for its completion; we do not want anything that will hinder or slow down the pace of work on the road.”

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