GRAPHIC details of how some of the hoodlums who kidnapped Prof Kamene Okonjo, mother of Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, were arrested in the rescue operation was painted by the Delta
State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, on Friday in Asaba.
Kamene, wife of Prof Chukwuka Okonjo, the Obi of Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha South Council of the state, was abducted last Sunday at the palace.
In the bid to free the matriarch of the Okonjo family, Aduba explained that the leader of the gang, one Nwazor Nwose, popularly called Bolaji, was killed by the police during a shootout in the Umuaji neighbourhood of Asaba.
Aduba described Bolaji as a notorious bandit, who was earlier arrested by the police some months ago and charged to court, but was freed on bail, only for him to return to his old business of kidnapping for ransom.
He said that when the police stormed the kingpin’s hideout in Asaba, he attempted to escape, but was shot.
The Police chief explained that the suspect still managed to scale the fence of his house, but was arrested outside the compound and died on the way to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Asaba, where his corpse has been deposited in the morgue.
He listed items recovered from the hoodlums as their getaway Volkswagen car, marked
DELTA ASB 677 AA, with which they abducted the Queen and a Toyota minibus, marked ANAMBRA KPP 64 XA, with the inscription of God’s Light City Church International.
Both vehicles were parked at a corner of the sprawling Police headquarters on Okpanam Road, Asaba.
Aduba said a combined team of policemen from Abuja and Delta State carried out the operation, adding that Mrs. Okonjo, a retired professor of Sociology, was freed from the kidnappers’ den in Kwale, Ndokwa West Council of the state, which the police stormed after the killing of the gang leader and the arrest of other gang members.
He gave the names of the other gang members arrested as Hard Rock, Tsetse Fly and Tipper Boy, stressing that a manhunt for the other members was on.
Aduba said: “Acting on information, we were able to identify the target, who lives in Asaba, the mastermind of the kidnap of Mrs. Okonjo, one Nwazor Nwose, aslo known and addressed as Bolaji, who hails from Umuaji Quarters, Asaba.
“He is a notorious kidnapper, who was arrested some months ago. Some few months ago, before my arrival in the state, he was arrested and arraigned in court and freed on bail, but continued with his nefarious activities. This time around, he has met his waterloo.”
The Police commissioner explained that when the operation to free the octogenarian started, the police had to be extra careful, because if they had stormed kidnappers’ hideout, it could have resulted in fatalities, in view of her age.
On rumours that a ransom was paid before she was set free, Aduba said that as an institution, the police does not get itself involved in the payment of ransoms. He said it was only the family members that could speak authoritatively on the issue.
The Palace spokesman, Chief Lawrence Okolobi, who confirmed the release, said the rest of the family members were surprised, but very excited when the Queen rode into the palace on an Okada after she was set free by her captors.
Amidst tight security at the palace, Okolobi stressed that no ransom was paid before she was freed.
He said the minister’s mother was released unhurt and in high spirit, but too traumatised to narrate her experience during her five-day captivity.
At Ogwashi-Uku, the ordinary people carried on as usual, but the mood in Asaba was exhilarating, following the killing of Nwose, who most locals who knew him described as a taciturn middle-aged man with a heart of lion.
Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah, described Prof Okonjo’s freedom as a thing of great joy, saying her abduction was contrary to African culture, which has great respect for the elderly and hold traditional institutions in the highest esteem.
The minister, in a statement by her Special Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuiku, thanked President Goodluck Jonathan, the security agencies for their excellent operations, and
Governors Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Peter Obi (Anambra) and Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), as well as other governors, friends and well wishers within and outside government for their prayers and encouragement during the very difficult period of her mother’s captivity.