The police in Delta State have dismissed reports that abductors of Kanene Okonjo, mother of Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, are demanding $1bn as ransom.
The state Police Commissioner, Ikechukwu Aduba, on Monday said the police were not aware of the speculated demands.
Reuters reports that Police said someone, purporting to be one of the kidnappers, had 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.”
The mother of the Finance Minister was kidnapped Sunday afternoon from her home at about 1.30pm by eight gunmen who invaded her husband’s palace at Ogbe-Ofu quarters in Ogwashi-Uku.
Shortly after her arrest, the police declared they already had information about the kidnappers and have deployed a “massive manhunt” for them.
“We have been able to rescue about 40 victims before,” Aduba said.
Also, the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, a chief superintendent, told one of our correspondents that detectives were working on certain clues, expressing confidence that the police would soon record a breakthrough in the investigation.
According to him, the Inspector-General of Police,Mohammed Abubakar, has directed Aduba to ensure that the wife of the traditional ruler of Ogwashi-Uku, Prof. Chukwuka Okonjo, is rescued soon.
Mba said in compliance with the directive, the CP had launched a manhunt for the criminals.
The police spokesman, who said that the queen would be rescued soon, appealed to Ogwuashi-Uku natives and residents to provide information that could assist the police in their investigation.
Meanwhile, there was anxiety on Monday at the headquarters of the ministry of finance over the abduction.
Our correspondent, who monitored the mood in the ministry, observed mixed feelings among officials of the ministry.
While some of the members of staff, especially those in the lower cadre discussed the abduction of the octogenarian in hushed tones, others in the senior cadre went about their normal activities.
The development, did not, however, disrupt activities as many of the people who visited the seven-storey complex, which houses the ministry and the Budget Office of the Federation, to carry out business transactions confirmed that they were promptly attended to.
The Minister of Finance was also said to have reported briefly to work early on Monday morning.
She was, however, said to be in a pensive mood.
Her Senior Special Assistant on Communication, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, could not be reached for comments as he did not reply to calls made to his telephone.
Also the Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, has enjoined the people of Ogwashi-Uku and the Okonjo royal family not to take the laws into their hands.
The state government, the governor said, was doing everything to rescue the abducted queen.
Uduaghan, who stated this on Monday at Ogwashi-Uku when he visited the family, said law enforcement agencies were already gathering information as well as tracking down the perpetrators to ensure her safe return.
He charged the community leaders, vigilance groups to remain calm and not to take any action that may prompt the kidnappers to act in rash manner.
“Please do not get involved in rumours mongering and trading stories that will not help law-enforcement agents. Only information that will help in her rescue is needed now,” he stated.
In a related development, stakeholders in the state on Monday condemned the kidnap.
They described the abduction as barbaric and unreasonable.
The leaders in a statement signed by the Director of Communications of the People’s Movement, Mrs. Ibifuro Tatua, said they were disgusted at the “Gestapo” like manner in which the kidnappers went about the incident.