Barely three days after her mother, Prof. Kamene Okonjo, was freed, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, disclosed that the kidnappers told the octogenarian that the minister’s purported refusal to pay subsidy claims as well as the non-release of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) funds were the motives behind their heinous action.
The minister, who said the old woman’s freedom from the abductors was miraculous, added that although she was denied food and water for the five days she was in captivity, she was in excellent health.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, Okonjo-Iweala, who described her mother as a very courageous woman, said while she was in their custody, the woman had inquired from the kidnappers the motive behind the ordeal they had subjected her to. The abductors, she said, had told her mother in no uncertain terms that her daughter (the minister) had refused to pay subsidy claims to marketers as well as blocked the release of funds accruing to SURE-P.
To set the record straight, the minister noted that nobody had stopped the payment of subsidy to marketers whose claims had been verified by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee, stressing that the insistence of the Federal Government remained that only claims emanating from genuine transactions and had been verified should be paid – a position she said Nigerians had also championed.
On SURE-P, the minister stated that the programme was a different process, under a special committee, which is not under her control, adding that the Federal Government would continue to do what is right and in the overall interest of Nigerians. “I can’t give all the details because we don’t want to compromise ongoing investigations. “But I can tell you one thing: My mother suffered a great deal during this ordeal. It was only the Almighty God that rescued her from a situation that could very easily have ended tragically.