From FEMI FOLARANMI, Yenagoa
Kidnappers of the mother of the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mrs. Bettina Okunwa Benson have demanded N40 million ransom from the family before she could be released. The 78-year-old woman was kidnapped at Korokorosei, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State by gunmen, who came to the community in two speedboats.
Anxiety had gripped the family when after 72 hours she was abducted; her kidnappers had not established contact with the family to make any demands. Investigations revealed that the family became relieved yesterday, when the kidnappers called a family member on phone late on Wednesday night, demanding that the family make available, N50 million for the release of the woman.
The kidnappers were said to have sounded impatient, when the family member pleaded that they should come down on their demand. Investigations revealed that yesterday, the kidnappers came down on their demand and reduced the ransom to N40 million with a warning that they would not negotiate further. They were said to have assured the family that Madam Benson is in good spirits.
Sources in the family said there was no sign to indicate whether the Speaker, Mr. Konbowei Friday Benson would succumb to the payment of ransom, particularly with security agencies closing in on the kidnappers. According to the political associates of Benson, his mind was made up, as he would not part with any money for the kidnappers to release his mother.
Checks indicated that Benson’s decision not to pay ransom was unconnected to the zero tolerance on crime and criminality of the Governor Henry Seriake Dickson and the headway the security agencies had made so far in their investigation. Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State Police Command had arrested two suspects in connection with the kidnap.
The two suspects were said to have been picked by the crack team of detectives and intelligence officers deployed to the community by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Kings Omire. The suspects who had undergone interrogation in police custody were said to have provided more clue to the police on the kidnap.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Mr. Fidelis Odunna, who confirmed the arrest of the two suspects, but declined to reveal their identities, said they had made useful statement. Odunna, who said the police were aware that the kidnappers had contacted the family, said the police were on their trail and would soon apprehend them.