Kidnappers urged to release Nigerian minister's mother

Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:21pm EST
 
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By Tife Owolabi and Tim Cocks

OGWASHI-UKU/ABUJA (Reuters) - The family of Nigeria's finance minister made an emotional appeal for kidnappers to free her 82-year-old mother on Monday, saying the elderly woman was in fragile health.

Kamene Okonjo, mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was abducted from her home on Sunday in Nigeria's oil-producing Delta state where kidnapping is rife.

"Around lunch time yesterday, some gunmen came to the compound and forced the gate open and took my mother away. The family is upset and traumatized," the minister's younger brother Onyema Okonjo told Reuters at the house.

"To abduct a grandmother more than 80 years old is sad. We appeal to them to release her as soon as possible because her health condition is not good," Onyema added.

Other members of the family sat outside in the sweltering heat as dozens of people arrived to offer support. The compound was surrounded by police.

Police said someone purporting to be one of the kidnappers had phoned on Monday to make some demands, but it was impossible to say whether the call was genuine.

"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," he added.   Continued...

 
Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during an interview with Reuters in her office in the capital Abuja August 24, 2012. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde