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SO PAINFUL: Did You Know Okonjo-Iweala’s Mother Was Kidnapped While She Was The Minister Of Finance? Read The Story Here (Details below)

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Back in 2012, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s mother, Kamene Okonjo who is a medical doctor and the wife of a traditional ruler, was kidnapped on December 9.


The abduction brought global attention to the serious issue of kidnappings in the Niger Delta region.

Ten heavily armed men kidnapped Professor (Mrs.) Kamene Okonjo, wife of Professor Chukuka Okonjo, the Obi of Ogwashi-Uku, from her apartment. She was eighty-two years old at the time of the incident. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was not popular among many Nigerians during that period, so a political motive for the abduction cannot be ruled out.

Kidnapping as a purely criminal enterprise has been on the upswing. Delta state, where the Minister’s mother lives, has been especially plagued with it.

Victims are often individuals with the means to pay a ransom.

When ransom is paid, the victims are released. Kidnapping of expatriate oil company employees was a widely used tactic by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) during its insurrection that ended in 2009 with an amnesty program that included payoffs for the warlords.

The police are claiming that they are “on top of it” with respect to this high-profile kidnapping. Beyond the hurt and anxiety that this vicious crime is bound to cause the victim’s family, it will also embarrass the Jonathan administration, of which Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is such a prominent member.

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Five days after she was kidnapped, Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Delta state governor at the time revealed she had been released.

He said Kamene Okonjo, a retired professor, was dropped off on a main road near her home in southern Nigeria.

Kidnapping is common in southern Nigeria, where it is a lucrative criminal enterprise.

It is not clear if Mrs Okonjo, 82, was held for political or financial gain.

Mr Uduaghan said her captors had probably decided to let her go because they were under pressure.

“The army and police have been on their trail and a lot of raids have been done. I think because of the heat they dropped her off on the highway,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

Dozens of people were reportedly detained during the search for Mrs Okonjo.

Earlier that week finance ministry spokesman Paul Nwabuikwu said that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala had been threatened recently.

He confirmed Mrs Okonjo’s release, but gave no further details, AP news agency reports.

It is not clear if a ransom was paid.

The governor said it was not government policy to pay ransoms but families sometimes negotiate with the kidnappers privately.

“For this one we also insisted that we would not pay any ransom [and] as a government we would not negotiate with anybody,” he said.

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Mrs Okonjo, who was released at about 10:30 local time (09:30 GMT), was currently sleeping and would be questioned about her ordeal later, Mr Uduaghan said.

The young man who had dropped off Mrs Okonjo has been arrested and is being questioned, he said.

Journalist Will Ross says kidnappings are so common in the country that they rarely make front page news.

Many businessmen, footballers and academics have been kidnapped for ransom in the south in recent months.

In the past, only foreign oil workers used to be targeted, our reporter says.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, 58, is an internationally respected economist who has led a high-profile campaign to clean up corruption in Nigeria, particularly in a controversial fuel subsidy programme.

In 2012, she delayed the payment to fuel importers, seeking better verification of claims for subsidies.

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