Press Statement: “My mother suffered a great deal… but I will not back down” – Okonjo-Iweala
COMMENTS BY THE COORDINATING MINISTER FOR THE ECONOMY AND MINISTER OF FINANCE, DR NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA AT TODAY’S MEDIA BRIEFING
· My heart is heavy with the news of the passing of my brothers, Governor Patrick Yakowa, General Andrew Aziza and the others who were on that last flight with them. It is indeed a great tragedy. Our sympathy and prayers go to their families. We pray for divine comfort for them in this very difficult time.
· I want to start by thanking Almighty God for the miracle of the release of my mother, Professor Mrs Kamene Okonjo. The Almighty has, once again, come through brilliantly for me and my family. Even during the bleakest part of this terrible experience, we believed that he would give us a testimony to his goodness and He did not fail us.
· Even as we thank God, we cannot forget so many Nigerians who have gone through the same terrible experience either as victims or families or friends of victims. Words are not enough to describe the sheer horror of the experience. The best way to honour the victims and families is to ensure that there is greater focus on kidnapping and progress in combatting it. Working with the relevant agencies under the leadership of the President, I intend to contribute my quota to helping achieve this.
· We also thank Mr President and the First Lady who were absolutely wonderful and first rate in their support and encouragement to me and my family throughout this terrible ordeal. The President took a daily interest in the case and gave directives for appropriate action by the security agencies.
· The security agencies also did a good job. They were very professional and enthusiastic in the discharge of their duties. I am hopeful that they will complete the job which they started so well.
· As terrible as the experience was, the love and sympathy of Nigerians was constant and overwhelming. It helped us get through the dark moments of this five day ordeal. God heard the prayers of the millions of Nigerians who prayed for the safe return of my mother. From the bottom of my heart, I thank all those who sent messages of support and encouragement by phone, by email and in person. To those who prayed in their homes and organised prayer circles in their churches and mosques and offices, I say: Thank you. Your prayers were heard.
· We would also like to register our appreciation for the support of Mr Vice President during this period of trial.
· Also very deserving of our thanks are Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State who coordinated activities on the ground; Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State as well as the majority of the governors who reached out to me and my family.
· The Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker
· I am also grateful to members of the international community for their outpouring of support. Notable in this regard are:
ü the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr David Cameron who took the trouble to write a personal note to encourage me;
ü the United States embassy and government
ü the Secretary General of the United Nations and the entire UN family;
ü the President of the World Bank and former Presidents of the World Bank;
ü the Managing Director of the IMF;
ü the Mo Ibrahim Foundation;
ü Bono and the One Foundation;
ü Heads of international agencies and dignitaries
· This experience has strengthened my faith in the country. The outpouring of love from all over the country has been simply overwhelming. Friends, neighbours, colleagues, acquaintances offered help and encouragement in a myriad ways; even total strangers mobilised prayer groups for the safe return of my mother. We pray that God will reward their selflessness abundantly.
MY MOTHER’S EXPERIENCE
· I can’t give all the details because we don’t want to compromise on-going 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.
· These statements are, of course, not true. In the case of subsidy payments, we have been paying all marketers whose claims have been verified by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee after going through the necessary processes.
· For marketers whose transactions are proven to be fraudulent, the position of the Jonathan government is also clear: we cannot and we will not pay. We will not back down on this. We will continue to stand firm.
· In the case of SURE-P, there is a totally different process that I have no control over.
· This is the right thing to do. And this, I believe is what the Nigerian people want.