From PAUL OSUYI, Asaba
The royal family of Obi (Prof.) Chukwuka Okonjo may have resorted to fasting and prayers as the security operatives intensified search for the kidnapped Queen Mother of Ogwashi-Uku kingdom, Prof. (Mrs.) Kamene Okonjo, even as the security agencies were said to have arrested three more suspects.
The 82-year-old mother of Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was forced into a waiting Golf car by about 10 gunmen at the gate of the palace of her husband, the Obi of Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State last Sunday when a suspect was apprehended. A family source who does not want to be named, informed that “we, the royal family members of Okonjo and other members of the community now engage in marathon prayer session on a daily basis at the Ogwashi –Uku palace ground and in some churches in the community to offer prayers to seek divine intervention for mama’s release.”
According to the source, “we have since put our differences aside to seek the face of God to touch the hearts of the people that took away Mama so that they can let her come back home, we are too frightened about her health condition and we do not know what is happening to her now, so it’s only God that can help us right now.” Her son, Prince Onyema Okonjo, debunked reports that the kidnappers have contacted the family and were demanding $1 billion ransom to free his mother.
He, however, wondered why the hoodlums have kept the octogenarian professor of sociology incommunicado since she was abducted from the palace last Sunday. “We do not have any further information at this time, I do not know where people got the story that the kidnappers are asking for $1billion ransom, that is certainly not true, as soon as we get any information, we get you informed, but we have not heard anything from them so far, it’s all rubbish and rumour that they are asking $1 billion,” Prince Okonjo said.
Meanwhile, residents are now living in absolute fear following last Sunday’s abduction of the Queen Mother. Apart from the manner she was whisked away by the dare-devil kidnappers, residents are now also apprehensive about attending to social activities because of the heavy presence of security operatives. “The situation here remains the same, everywhere is calm, security people are everywhere and one has to restrict his movement for now to avoid being used as scape-goat by these security people because for them, everyone is a suspect,” a resident said.
The state Police Commissioner, Ikechukwu Aduba did not confirm the number of persons arrested, a source said two policemen, one of them attached to the palace and two domestic staff were in custody. Aduba stressed that the command could invite as many people as possible for questioning in relation to the abduction. However, fierce-looking security operatives have continued to lay siege on Ogwashi-Uku kingdom where the Queen Mother was kidnapped. Aduba also stressed that his command was “not aware of any ransom and we will never support the payment of ransom.
“For those who believe in the force, we have always rescued their victims unhurt without the payment of ransom. A case in point is the son of the SSG who was rescued without ransom and several other cases. “I am very positive that mama will be rescued. People have to co-operate with our men who are already everywhere. Our men have been placed on red alert and we are on top of the situation. We have spread out our dragnets to track down the hoodlums”, he said. Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Victor Ochei, has condemned the abduction.
Ochei said that adequate security had been put in place to effect the unconditional release of the octogenarian, expressing confidence that the hoodlums would not escape justice as the law will catch up with them. He said the House recently passed the anti-kidnapping and anti-terrorism bill which spelt out death penalty for perpetrators as one of the measures to reduce crime in the state, adding that law would soon catch up with the bandits.