Friday 14 December 2012

Okonjo-Iweala’s mother: 63 arrested in military raid - THE NATION

WITH 63 suspects arrested yesterday by the military, the battle to free Prof. Kamene Okonjo, the kidnapped 82-year-old mother of Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is getting more serious.

Two policemen had earlier been arrested. Besides, a man was picked up immediately after Mrs Okonjo’s abduction on Sunday in her home in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State.

Delta Police Commissioner Ikechukwu Aduba said yesterday that “insider collaboration” was suspected in the crime.

“Yesterday, the Four Brigade raided Ogwashi-Ukwu in search of Mama” army spokeswoman Roseline Managbe told Reuters.

“Those arrested are being questioned,” she added.

Managbe confirmed that two Lebanese men working for the construction company, Setraco, were abducted on Tuesday in Delta State by gunmen who killed a soldier protecting them.

“It could be my turn tomorrow,” said Tony Agwu, who lives near Okonjo’s house.

“It’s a terrible situation down here. The security agents in the Delta are compromised,” he added, voicing the widely held view that security forces are often complicit.

December is believed to be the most dangerous month for kidnapping when criminals need money to buy Christmas presents.

“Everybody else learned that you don’t pick the most high profile. It’s not worth it. This might not end well for them,” Agwu said.

A security source in Delta State said Mrs. Okonjo was involved in local politics and snatching her may have been a scare tactic.

Delta police chief Aduba said as a result of suspected insider collaboration, investigation is being extended to members of the victim’s family, including palace guards.

Aduba said the Divisional Police Headquarters, Ogwashi-Uku, will also be investigated for any obvious lapses.

He expressed regret at the kidnap, saying the police and other security agencies have been fully mobilised to ensure her early release.

Aduba, who spoke to reporters in Asaba, the state capital, said the SARS team, acting on a tip-off, arrested three suspects after they were trailed to a black spot within the metropolis.

He identified the suspects as Uchenna Ugo, John Adaeze and Samson Okoro.

Items recovered are one locally made revolver pistol and 17 rounds of live ammunition.

According to Aduba, efforts are on to identify the intended target and arrest other gang members.

He said operatives arrested two suspects with explosives in a mission to blow up Otorogu Gas Plant, Ughelli South Local Government.

Aduba said two suspects, John Orere and Godwin Anoke, were arrested.

The police boss said an 11-man gang dispossessed Ejakpaghene Baron of his belongings worth N1.643, 500 million, including a laptop valued at N103, 000 and a Honda Accord car valued at N1.3 million and N280,000.

Other items include a handset worth N50, 000, a neck chain valued at N7, 000 and a wrist watch.

He said the police acting on a tip-off in collaboration with the local vigilance group arrested five suspects, Peter Idowu, Apkomedaye Emmanuel, Eriga Omovoro, Nyariviro Osio and Isaac Okpogbodu.

Also a former Vice-Chairman of Okpe Local Government of Delta State, John Ikwarsi has been kidnapped in Adeje, Warri/Sapele Road, Okpe Local Government.

The kidnap suspects were said to have demanded N4 million.

The family could not be reached for comments.

A prominent Warri, Delta State lawyer, Mr. Casely Omon-Irabor, was yesterday arrested in connection with a kidnap case.

Omon-Irabor, who is the coordinator of Human Rights Defenders, was picked up in Warri barely 24 hours after he facilitated the surrender of over 100 former members of the late John Togo-led Niger Delta Liberation Force.

Police sources said he was arrested while attempting to bribe the police with N700,000 to facilitate the release of a kidnap suspect.

Police Public Relations Officer in the state command, Mr. Charles Muka, hinted that the lawyer’s arrest was in connection with high profile kidnapping cases. It was not clear if he was specifically linked with Prof Okonjo’s kidnap.

Muka, who spoke to newsmen on telephone, said: “Yes we have him (Omon-Irabor) in custody. He was negotiating for the release of a kidnap suspect. He wanted to bribe a policeman to release the suspect so the policeman played along with him and he took the money N700, 000 cash alongside with the family members of the suspect to the house of the policeman. So, that was why he was arrested and he is being interrogated.”

Moreso, he said he knows 30 percent of kidnappers in the state and he would continue to defend them,” the police spokesperson added.

Attempts to speak with the lawyer last night were unsuccessful as his mobile phone was switched off.


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