The official story given by police to explain the release of kidnapped Prof. Kamene Okonjo, mother of Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is raising doubt about the real circumstances surrounding her escape.
At a press conference, Delta State Commissioner of Police, Ikechukwu Aduba, said the Queen Mother was freed by her abductors after five days in confinement and taken home by motorcycle from Kwale, 50 kilometers away. The young man who dropped off Mrs. Okonjo has been arrested and is being questioned, police said.
What remains confusing is the mode of transportation of Professor Okonjo on a motorbike from the scene of freedom to her home if actually the police stormed the kidnappers hideout and rescued her as being claimed.
With the case "resolved," it remains unclear whether those arrested in recent days in connection with the kidnapping would be released or charged.
The Queen Mother of Ogwashi-Uku was kidnapped last Sunday at aboaut 1:47 p.m. by 10 armed kidnappers at her husband’s palace.
Unofficial sources told our reporter that the Queen Mother managed to free herself unassisted, but an updated police version of the story alleges that police stormed the kidnappers’ den in Asaba, the state capital, where they killed one suspect, Nwaze Nwosa aka Bolaji, arrested another gang member and shot four members of the gang who escaped with bullet wounds.
It is unclear what role the storming of a location in Asaba had to do with the kidnap victim regaining her freedom in Kwale. Also unknown is whether a ransom was paid to facilitate her release.
Earlier, the Police Command blamed "insiders" for orchestrating the Queen Mother’s abduction, and they unmasked the identity of 25 suspected kidnappers, armed robbers and pipeline vandals that have been terrorizing the oil rich state.
Briefing journalists at the command headquarters in Asaba today, CP Aduba said the sensitive nature of Queen Mother Okonjo’s kidnap made the command beam its searchlight on any obvious errors or lapses either on the part of the palace guards or the Divisional Police Headquarters in Ogwashi-Uku. He said the release of the victim involved the combined efforts of the crack team of policemen deployed by the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, and the proactiveness of men of the Special Anti-Crime Squad (SARS).
According to him, “the Delta State Police supported by a crack team from IGP’s Special Task Force on Terrorism, Abuja, consciously and professionally with due caution collated intelligence on the activities of the hoodlums and struck their hideouts in Asaba.” He said the manhunt for the fleeing members of the gang was on and that the command would not rest until they were arrested.
He displayed the items recovered from their hideouts to include an ash-coloured Golf 3 car with registration number DELTA ASB 697 AA, which he said had been used to transport the Queen Mother out of the palace; and a white Toyota bus, labeled God’s Delight Church International, with registration number ANAMBRA KPP 64 XA.
A Police source in the state told SaharaReporters that the dead leader of the kidnap gang had been on the most wanted list for his alleged involvement in a series of kidnapping and violent crimes in the state. He also stated that the Delta state police command once arrested him and charged him with various crimes, but he was released without trial and kidnappings continue unabated in the state.
Mrs Okonjo is a retired professor of sociology at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
Her husband, Obi Chukwuka Okonjo Agbogidi, a retired professor of economics, is the traditional ruler of the Ogwashi-Uku kingdom in Delta State.