Monday, December 10, 2012

Nigerian President Jonathan Orders Rescue of Finance Minister's Mother

Jonathan orders rescue of Okonjo-Iweala’s mum

Posted by: Yusuf Alli, Nduka Chiejina Abuja and Jude Isiguzo Posted date: December 11, 2012
The Nation, Nigeria

Police special team, soldiers deployed in Delta

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday directed security agencies to rescue Prof. Kamene Okonjo, the kidnapped octogenarian mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Dr. Jonathan has returned to Abuja after the funeral of his younger brother, Meni, in Bayelsa State.

A massive manhunt for the kidnappers, who were yet to contact the family as at 7.30pm last night, has begun. In the battle to rescue Mrs Okonjo are the police, the State Security Service (SSS) and the Intelligence units of the Armed Forces.

The family is said to be worried over the fragile health of the retired Professor of Sociology.

The Ministry of Finance was virtually shut down as a result of the incident.

The Minister relocated to Delta, it was gathered.

“We might not have been able to establish motive, but it is a clear case of kidnap,” police spokesman Frank Mba told AFP, adding that “the police have already launched a massive manhunt for the perpetrators of the crime.

A source said: “The SSS, the police and Intelligence units of the Army, Air Force and Navy are all involved in the efforts to locate Mrs. Okonjo.

“We are still trying to identify where the old woman was taken to by the fleeing suspects. We will try our best to rise to this challenge.

“The President has directed all the security agencies to rescue the victim in a tactical manner to avoid being hurt.”

A police source in Delta said a crack team of detectives from Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has been deployed in Delta to track the kidnappers.

The source, who pleaded not to be named because of what he called the sensitivity of the matter, said: “The kidnappers are yet to get in touch with the family. We are awaiting their call. I am quite sure that they will soon reach out to the family.

“The security agencies are liaising with the family to get some clues and also give an update on their efforts. But the family prefers a low-profile approach to the rescue operation.”

The Okonjo family is said to be worried about the health of its matriarch.

Another source said: “For quite some time, the health of the aged mother of the minister has been fragile. And this gives a serious worry to the Minister because she was not allowed access to her drugs before she was kidnapped.

“The situation is tense in the family because of fears that her health might deteriorate.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “We are anxious about her health. That is why the family has been unusually quiet. We want to leave this issue out of the media as much as possible, until the situation is sorted out.

“It is quite harrowing and emotionally challenging. If you can keep this off the media, we will appreciate it. That is why all the aides of the minister and associates are not picking calls. The emotional trauma is too much.”

Early yesterday, activities at the Ministry of Finance were virtually paralysed.

An official of the ministry said: “We were all devastated; we could not work effectively because the woman has been hardworking and highly reform-oriented. It is sad that the mother of such a patriotic Nigerian could suffer this kind of fate.”

Sources in Delta said Prof. Chukuka Okonjo, the Obi of Ogwushi-Ukwu, the husband of the kidnapped mother of the minister, has been “a difficult Very Important Person (VIP) to manage for the police.”

He is believed to have rejected all entreaties for security detail to be provided for him and his wife.

He is also opposed to the activities of the vigilance group in his palace, it was gathered.

When he travelled to Nasarawa, where he was at the time of his wife’s kidnap on Sunday, he is believed to have timed down the police’s attempt to provide him an orderly.

The Minister set her worries aside and reported for work in her office yesterday – although briefly. She received some guests and made telephone calls.

An official of the ministry said: “Since she came to work today it is likely she was in Abuja at the weekend when the news of the kidnapping broke.”

Kidnappers yet to make contact with family

Posted by: Shola Oneil, Warri and Okungbowa Aiwerie, Asaba Posted date: December 11, 2012

Forty-egiht hours after the kidnap of Prof Kamene Okonjo, mother of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, heavily armed security operatives have descended on Ogwashi-Uku,Aniocha South Local Government Area.

Security operatives comprising soldiers and police cordoned off the road leading to the palace yesterday.

A security cordon has been thrown around the state.

All exits are manned by stern-looking soldiers searching motorists.

It was learnt that a detachment of soldiers from the 4th Mechanized Brigade of the Army in Benin, the Edo State capital was deployed to the state.

Brig.-Gen. Ubi Umahi, who is the Commander, Mechanised Brigade leds the team

Mrs. Okonjo was bundled into a waiting vehicle by gunmen numbering about 10 on Sunday afternoon.

Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan yesterday visited Ogwashi-Uku to re-assure residents of his administration’s commitment to security of life and property.

Dr. Uduaghan, who warned against rumour mongering over the abduction, urged the people to remain calm and come up with information that could assist security operatives to track down the hoodlums.

Delta State Commissioner of Police, Ikechukwu Aduba vowed to rescue the octogenarian unhurt and round up the kidnappers.

Aduba, who did not confirm the arrest of more suspects as being speculated, said there was “no cover-up and we are on course in our investigation.”

Prof Okonjo’s kinsmen have called for the immediate release of their daughter.

Prof Okonjo hails from Obomkpa,Aniocha North Local Government Area.

Obi of Obomkpa, Obi Jonathan Nsuebo, urged the abductors to release her immediately and without conditions.

In a statement, the monarch described the kidnap as shocking.

He warned of unspecified consequence should harm befall the Queen, adding that Obomkpa community stood with the people of Ogwashi Uku in their trying period.

Obi Nsuebo prayed that the Queen should return safely to join her people in this festive period.

President General of Obomkpa Progressive Union Prince Emeka Dibia said the Obomkpa people at home and in the Diaspora were keenly watching the development. He appealed to the kidnappers to retrace their steps and free her without further delay.

He recalled that kidnapping is a serious criminal offence and expressed surprise that anyone could think of putting an 82-year-old grandmother through such the ordeal.

There has been an upsurge in the abduction of high profile victims in Delta State. Among the recent victims are Ex-Super Eagles midfielder Christian Obodo, Prof Hope Eghagha, the Commissioner of Higher Education, Monday Igbuya, Majority Leader, Delta State House of Assembly, prominent businessmen and others.

Many prominent persons have lately increased the number of police protecting them, with many also making use of armed vigilance groups.

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