The Delta State Police Command has said that reports of phone calls demanding $1bn as ransom by the abductors for the release of Professor Kanene Okonjo, the mother of the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as false.
According to Mr Ikechukwu Aduba, the Commissioner of Police, these demands were not to the knowledge of the police.
Foreign news agency, Reuters, reported that someone, possibly one of the kidnappers, had made the demand in a phone call on Monday. However, there was no way of confirming the genuineness of the phone call.
“We have to identify the source of the call. Anybody can make spurious calls and demands,” said Delta State Police spokesman, Sergie Ezegam, without giving details of who was contacted or what was demanded.
“We still don’t know the reason for her abduction. What we know is that this is a crime, the woman’s life is in danger and we are making frantic efforts to rescue her.”
The mother of the Finance Minister was kidnapped on Sunday afternoon from her home in Ogwashi-Uku by eight men who invaded her husband’s palace.
Not long after their arrest, the police disclosed that they had already obtained valuable information about the kidnappers and were hot on their heels.
“We have been able to rescue about 40 victims before,” Aduba said.
Also, the Chief Superintendent Frank Mba, the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, said that detectives were working on certain clues and was secure in the knowledge that there will soon be a breakthrough in the investigation.
He also said that the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, had directed Aduba to do everything possible to make sure that the wife of the traditional ruler of Ogwashi-Uku was released soon.
The police spokesperson also appealed to the people of Ogwashi-Uku to provide information to the police to assist them in the investigation, while assuring them that their queen would soon be released.
Meanwhile, there was anxiety at the Ministry of Finance over the abduction with mixed feelings observed among the workers. While lower cadre staff discussed the abduction in gatherings in hushed tones, the senior workers went around their normal activities.
The development did not also stop normal work from being carried out in the seven-storey complex of the ministry, which also houses the Budget Office of the Federation, as people with business transactions completed them in good time.
The Minister of Finance was said to have reported briefly to work early in the morning. However, she was in a pensive mood.
Her spokesperson, Paul Nwabiakwu, could not give any comments as calls placed to his phone went unanswered.
Also, the Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, has enjoined the people of Ogwashi-Uku and the Okonjo royal family not to take the law into their hands.
He stated this on Monday when he visited the family, saying that law enforcement agencies were already gathering information which will enable them track down the criminals and ensure her safe return.
He charged the community leaders, vigilance groups to remain calm and not to take any action that may prompt the kidnappers to act in rash manner.
“Please do not get involved in rumours mongering and trading stories that will not help law-enforcement agents. Only information that will help in her rescue is needed now,” he stated.
Meanwhile, a stakeholders group in the state, The People’s Movement, has condemned the kidnap, calling it barbaric and unreasonable.
The leaders in a statement signed by the Director of Communications of the People’s Movement, Mrs. Ibifuro Tatua, said they were disgusted at the “Gestapo” like manner in which the kidnappers went about the incident.