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The police in Delta state has denied abductors of Kanene Okonjo, mother of Nigeria’s Finance minister, are demanding $1billion as ransom.

Delta state police commissioner, Ikechukwu Aduba, told PREMIUM TIMES the police is not aware of speculated demands. He said the police are working hard to rescue the 85 year old professor.

PREMIUM TIMES could not independently confirm the ransom demand as close associates of the victim refused to comment about her kidnap on record.

The mother of the Finance Minister was kidnapped Sunday afternoon from her home at about 1:30 pm by eight gunmen who invaded her husband’s palace at Ogbe-Ofu quarters in Ogwahi-Uku.

Shortly after her arrest, the police declared they already had information about the kidnappers and have deployed a “massive manhunt” for them.

The police promised to rescue her in 24 hours.

Although the 24 hours given by the police has long passed, the state’s police commissioner is optimistic his officers will bring the professor back home, unscathed “soon.”

“We have been able to rescue about 40 victims before,” Mr. Aduba said.

Insider factor

As part of its investigation, the police said it is inviting family members and close associates of the victim for questioning.

Mr. Aduba said in cases like this, there is always an “insider factor” and his command is not leaving that out.

One of the children of the Okonjo family, Onyema Okonjo, had earlier blamed security lapses for the kidnap of his mother.

Lucrative industry

Kidnapping, once used as a tool by militants to challenge marginalization of the oil rich states of the Niger Delta, has become the most lucrative crime in the area.

Security experts estimate the kidnap crime industry is worth over N10 billion in the Niger Delta states.

In Delta state, atleast a dozen government officials and others with familial links to government officials have been kidnapped.

Often, families of the victim are made to part with huge sums to secure their release.

Most victims also deny paying ransom to secure their release, thereby encouraging the crime which thrives on intimidation.

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