Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.

 

Army arrests 63 in hunt for Okonjo's mother

14 December 2012, 07:26

Ogwashi-Uku - The army said on Thursday that soldiers had arrested 63 people in raids as they searched for the finance minister's 82-year-old mother, kidnapped from her home on Sunday.

It was still not known whether the abduction of Kamene Okonjo, mother of former World Bank director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in Delta state, was political or for financial gain.

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

"Those arrested are being questioned," she added.

Africa's top oil producer has one of the world's most prolific kidnapping industries, yet Sunday's abduction shocked even residents of Delta state, thought to be Nigeria's worst.

Managbe said two Lebanese men working for Nigerian construction company Setraco had been abducted on Tuesday in Delta state by gunmen who killed a soldier protecting them.

Residents of the Niger Delta oil region, where Okonjo-Iweala's mother was abducted, live in fear of the near daily abductions that make millions of dollars in ransoms for gangs.

"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.

The police said on Wednesday that two policemen have been arrested on suspicion of helping kidnappers.

Christmas hostages

Nigerians say December is the most dangerous month for kidnapping, when criminals need money to buy Christmas presents. The delta is no exception.

"Around this time, 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."

Nigerian forces have little tolerance for kidnappers, whom they often shoot on sight when they catch them - as they did in November to 13 people suspected of abducting a Turkish man.

Cases of kidnapping in the Niger Delta exploded in around 2006, during the years of militancy by armed groups often targeting expatriate oil workers. An amnesty in 2009 officially ended militant activity, yet associated crimes, like oil theft from pipelines and abduction, have, if anything, worsened.

"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.

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

Either way, recruiting kidnappers is easy in a region where oil wealth sits along side mass unemployment.

"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."

- Reuters

NEXT ON NEWS24 NIGERIAX

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Justice Nwafor
'Pray for Imo State' Okorocha cha...

Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state has charged religious leaders in the state to pray for the continuous survival of the state in the face of the many challenges facing her. Read more...

South-Western Fighters may arise!

South-Western Fighters (SWF) may arise!, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Martin Beck Nworah
Judging George

I pledge to uphold the tenets of fairness, natural justice and equity in this matter and if anyone tries to interfere, I'll pass a summary judgment immediately, writes Martin Beck Nworah. Read more...

Submitted by
Peregrino Brimah
Advising the Nigerian Army not to...

This is a strong note of advise, short of a warning, to the Nigerian army to refrain from perpetrating any massacre on communities in the Niger Delta. Read more...

Submitted by
Peregrino Brimah
As we wait for Buhari's response ...

Join me in saying a prayer that when Buhari wakes up today or tomorrow, he responds to the horrific act of carnage to our farmers and directs Buratai to direct Arase to go and get the culprits, says Peregrino Brimah. Read more...

Submitted by
WaterAid Nigeria
Menstrual Hygiene Day 2016

Let’s start the conversation on why menstruation matters, says WaterAid Nigeria. Read more...