Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told journalists yesterday that her mother was kidnapped and kept five days without food or water because she refused to pay subsidy cash and blocked payment to certain components of the SURE-P programme.
She however refused to give out all the details so as not to compromise on-going investigations.
She said her mother was kept without food and water for 5 days, and this added to the emotional trauma of being abducted and kept in a strange environment for that length of time.
She said the Okonjo family was very thankful and full of gratitude to God that their 83-year old mother was still alive to tell the tale.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said the kidnappers “spent much of the time harassing the old woman. 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.”
She denied these, saying that fuel importers would be paid after verification by the Aig-Imoukhede committee, which has processes. She remained steadfast that unverified claims would not be paid and neither would marketers still owing the government.
In the case of the SURE-P, she said it was a completely different programme over which she had no control.
The minister was grateful to members of the international community for their support, notably “the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr David Cameron, who took the trouble to write a personal note to encourage me; the United States Embassy and government; the Secretary General of the United Nations and the entire UN family; the President of the World Bank and former Presidents of the World Bank; the Managing Director of the IMF; the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Bono and the One Foundation; Heads of international agencies and dignitaries”
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala also expressed her gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan and the First Lady, who she said “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.”
She also commended the security agencies in the professional and enthusiastic way they went about their jobs, saying she was full of hope they will complete the job they started so well.
However, the news conference had a sombre mood due to the death of the former governor of Kaduna State Mr Patrick Yakowa, and the former National Security Adviser, Gen Andrew Azazi, in a helicopter crash at the weekend.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, said her 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.”