Operatives of the State Security Service, SSS, have arrested six of the abductors of Prof. Keneme Okonjo, mother of the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala. Okonjo, wife of the Obi of Ogwuashi-Ukwu, Prof. Chukwuka Okonjo, was kidnapped on December 9, 2012 at the palace of the traatditional ruler.
However, through concerted efforts of the combined security agencies in the country, the victim was released on December 14. But in a bid to unravel those behind the kidnapping, arrests were made by the police, Army and men of the SSS.
Last week, 63 of the suspects earlier arrested by the Army were released unconditionally when their culpability could not be established. A competent source at the SSS told National Mirror yesterday that six of the real suspects had eventually been arrested in Asaba, Delta State, and might be flown to Abuja today.
The source also confirmed that a N40m ransom was actually paid for the release of the 82-year- old retired professor of Sociology.
Explaining how the suspects were arrested, the source said: “The N40m, which was paid to the kidnappers was marked money from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. “What happened was that the money was paid on Wednesday by our men and by Thursday, two persons had gone to the Nebisi Road branch of an old generation bank to deposit N15m out of the money.
Because it was marked money, they were promptly arrested. “Our men were able to track four of the kidnappers with the aid of the two persons. Right now, we are on the trail of the remaining four suspects.
“The six suspects are supposed to be brought to Abuja tomorrow (today) to face further interrogation.”
Asked why the operatives were not able to arrest the suspects the time they came for the money, the source explained: “Don’t forget that as at that time the woman was still with the kidnappers and they could decide to kill her if they suspect anything phony. “Our major concern then was to ensure that the woman regained her freedom and was not harmed in any way.
In fact, that was the point the minister kept hammering to us. “She said that we should do everything possible to secure her mother alive, even if it meant paying whatever ransom the kidnappers asked for. “If you know how this is done, once they came for the money, we knew that the game was up for them. We knew that we must get them unless they would not spend that money in Nigeria.”
Okonjo-Iweala had shortly after her mother release said that the abductors were unhappy with the administration of the fuel subsidy and SURE-P programmes.
Okonjo-Iweala, who had recounted what her mother told the family after her ‘miraculous’ escape from the den of the dare-devil abductors, said: “I can’t give all the details because we don’t want to compromise ongoing investigations. “But I can tell you one thing: My mother suffered a great deal during this ordeal.
It was only the Almighty God that rescued her from a situation that could very easily have ended tragically. “Apart from the emotional trauma of being violently taken away from her family and kept incommunicado for five days in a strange environment, a woman of 83 years was left without food for five days. “We give glory to God that she is alive today to tell the tale. While she was in their custody, the kidnappers spent much of the time harassing her.
They told her that I must get on the radio and television and announce my resignation. “When she asked why, they told her it was because I did not pay oil subsidy money. They also said I had blocked payment of money to certain components of the SURE-P programme.”