Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Kanene Okonjo - Police Not Party to Negotiation for Ransom - CP

Delta State Commissioner of Police Ikechukwu Aduba yesterday said that the command was not party to any negotiation for ransom over the kidnap of Prof. Kanene Okonjo, mother of the finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Mr Aduba also revealed that two policemen, who were supposed to be on duty when Prof Okonjo was kidnapped, had been arrested and detained in the course of investigation.

Aduba, who spoke in Asaba, the Delta State capital, said that the police was not privy to any negotiation for ransom and that it did not support the payment of ransom to kidnappers.

Okonjo, the wife of Prof. Chukwuka Okonjo, the Obi of Ogwashishi-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area was kidnapped on Sunday afternoon at the palace.

"As far as I am concerned, the issues of ransom in the newspapers are all stories. And I don't like telling stories; I deal with facts. We have spread our dragnets to ensure we get these hoodlums. Issues of ransom, we are not involved and we have never supported it."

The police commission noted that there were usually insiders in every issue of kidnapping, bank robberies and other such other crimes.

He said that the state command had scaled up its efforts leading to the arrest of 20 armed kidnapers in the past few days.

According to him, "We have been doing our best. The state criminal investigation and the State Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) have been able to round up 20 kidnappers of four separate gangs. We rescued some victims yesterday at Akukwu-Igbo in Oshimili North Local Government Area.

"Also Thursday last week, we intercepted a gang of kidnappers that were heading toward Ogwashi-Uku and we recovered their guns. There is a 24-hour patrol in this state and within five minutes of getting distress a call we are there, the kidnap of the Queen is an unfortunate incident."

The commissioner called on those with 'hostage value' to be careful and to report any suspicious movements around them, noting that security was the responsibility of all, not only for the police force.

Aduba called on the traditional rulers, religious leaders and all individuals to give useful information to the police. Meanwhile, some residents, out of fear for the unknown, were yesterday seen moving out of Ogwashi-uku, near Asaba in the early hours, while hundreds of women reportedly stripped themselves naked on Monday night in protest of the abduction of Professor (Mrs.) Okonjo.

Reports said the protesting women, armed with fetish materials, placed curses on kidnappers and other evil doers in the communities.

LEADERSHIP reports that Ogwashi-uku communities have been under the siege of unholy activities, including ritual killings allegedly carried out by unknown persons in the last seven years.

Gunmen kidnap retired general's wife in Ibadan

In a related development, Titilayo, the wife of retired Brig-Gen. Oluwole Rotimi,, has been kidnapped by unknown gunmen in Ibadan.

The victim was kidnapped around 6:30pm on Monday in front of her company, AOK Logistics Ltd, located on Old Ife Road in Ibadan. She was said to have been abducted by four armed men while she was leaving her office at the close of work.

It was gathered that the incident, which was reported at Egbeda Police Station, had been transferred to the state Criminal Investigation Department, Iyaganku, Ibadan.

The spokesman of the Oyo State Police Command, DSP Ayodele Lanade, who confirmed the incident, said the victim was driving in her black Mercedes Benz car when she was accosted.

"According to the reports we gathered, two security men attached to her company removed the barricade on the gate for her car to drive out of the office complex. In the process, two armed men approached and ordered the driver to stop the car at gun point. A green Nissan Primera suddenly reversed and blocked her car while she was ordered to get into the Nissan car," he said.

The police spokesman remarked that her manner of abduction was peculiar when compared to similar cases.

"We found out that there is a rift between the woman and her workers over three months salary which led to agitation by the aggrieved workers," he said.

The police spokesman, however, said that no ransom demand had been presented while no arrest had been made.

A member of the group who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity said: "We moved into the bush path where the kidnappers were said to drive through and we saw some boots including GSM phones without SIM cards" adding that the items were handled over to the police in the area.

LEADERSHIP reliably gathered that the fleeing residents had prior to the incident, complained of strange activities where dogs including other domestic animals died with no trace of ailments.

But some elders who craved anonymity dispelled as untrue adding that the fleeing residents were running away for fear of the unknown.

Expectedly, Ogwashi-uku community which used to be beehive of activities in the last few days was a shadow of itself as the kidnap issue gained momentum.

Ogbueshi Ezekiel Ogbu, an elder statesman, told LEADERSHIP that the kidnap of Mrs. Okonjo, the Queen mother of Ogwashi-uku was a taboo adding that the kidnappers had demystified the traditional values of the community.

LEADERSHIP checks revealed that dead owls were displaced in various streets of the community, especially the market square where the traders were seen sharing profuse tears of what was said to be "Unprecedented incident".

Some of these market women had argued that the dead owls indicated bad omen, stressing that kidnapping the king's wife was a desecration of the Ogwashi-uku land.

DSP Charles Muka, police spokesman in the state said security agents were working hand to unmask the kidnappers adding that the items will not be made public until verified.

Mark calls for unconditional release

Also, Senate President David Mark yesterday urged the abductors of Professor Okonjo to release her unconditionally.

Mark who bemoaned that kidnapping was not different from the killings perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect, said the kidnap of a notable Nigerians like Okonjo-Iweala was an attack on the international reputation of Nigeria.

In a release signed by his media aide, Kola Ologbodiyan, Mark said "the abduction of any Nigerian is condemnable. The abduction of the mother of a notable Nigerian like Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is an attack on the international reputation of our dear country.

"Abductors are causing the nation's reputation a grave harm among the comity of nations. Such crime is not different from the senseless killings being perpetrated by Boko Haram".

He further urged that the "abductors should honour the time-tested Biblical injunction that we honour our parents and by extension, those who are old enough to be our parents".

He, however, called on the police to intensify efforts in securing the release of Prof Okonjo and "bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to book".

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