- Title: NIGERIA: Police search for kidnapped mother of minister
- Date: 10th December 2012
- Summary: VARIOUS OF MARKET
- Embargoed: 25th December 2012 12:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Reuters ID: LVA5PSQ6WDY12HM51MV138UWFVJ4
- Story Text: Nigerian police were searching for the 82-year-old mother of the country's finance minister on Monday (December 10) after she was kidnapped from her home by unknown assailants.
Authorities said Kamene Okonjo was seized in Delta state in the South-East, late on Sunday (December 9) morning.
The police spokesman for Delta state, Sergie Ezegam, said the kidnappers have made their first call, making some demands but they are yet to identify the source of the call.
The family home where the finance minister's mother had been kidnapped is being heavily guarded by security operatives.
"I feel bad that this kind of a thing happened. The woman's husband just went for medical check-up... who knows, I hope they don't kill her; anyway, during Christmas anything can happen," said Ben Edward, a businessman who lives close to the family house.
Okonjo is a professor and the wife of the traditional ruler of her home town Ogwashi-Uku.
President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Okonjo's daughter as finance minister last year.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's drive to reform a corrupt and closed economy has made her popular with Western powers and many Nigerians hoping for change. But the former World Bank director has also ruffled powerful vested interests along the way, especially fuel marketers benefiting from a corrupt state subsidy scheme.
Felix Osaduwe, a student said that the state of unemployment in the country is to be blamed for the level of kidnapping in the country.
"Guys are hungry, the main cause is jobless; for example now, somebody is working in a bank or a firm and the person is earning a living, there is no way he will start kidnapping. The key word here is just jobless," he said.
Tony Agwu, a resident in Delta state said there was need to overhaul the entire police force.
"There is point running away from Boko Haram in the North and coming home to be kidnapped, so it is a very terrible situation. We feel that the security agents in the area and the whole Delta region are not working enough or either they comprise or they don't know what their job is. I think the best thing is to reshuffle them," he said.
Speaking on local independent TV station, Channels TV, Delta state Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, said a rescue operation was under way.
An official in Delta State said investigations had not yet revealed whether she was kidnapped to extract a ransom or for political motives, but that Okonjo was involved in local politics and that seizing her may be some kind of scare tactic.
Nigeria is one of the worst countries in the world for kidnapping, a business which makes millions of dollars a year for criminal gangs.
Abductions are most common in oil-producing areas like Delta state, where gangs are usually after ransom. The majority of people abducted are Nigerians, but foreign oil and construction workers have also been targets.
Local newspapers report kidnappings almost daily and the victims are often professionals or relatives of politicians, although rarely anyone as prominent as Okonjo.
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