Negotiations have begun in earnest with the kidnappers of Prof. Kamene Okonjo, mother of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was kidnapped on Sunday in Delta State.
THISDAY gathered Tuesday that the kidnappers had contacted the Okonjo family during which they listed conditions for the release of the minister’s mother, chief of which was that the family should part with N200 million.
The demand for N200 million was made after an initial demand for N1 billion, which the family made clear it could not pay.
According to sources, the abductors who telephoned the family at noon on Monday, initially demanded to speak with Okonjo-Iweala, but were not allowed to do so.
Rather, they were made to speak with the eldest son of the victim, Onyema, who relocated to Ogwashi-Uku on Monday to coordinate the release of his mother.
However, the minister, who was also ready to travel to Ogwashi-Uku, was advised against the trip by the Delta State Government and security agents.
It was learnt that the abductors first demanded the resignation of the minister as a precondition for the release of her mother.
Security sources said Onyema, however, insisted on speaking with his mother to ascertain the state of her health and to be sure that he was not dealing with impostors before he could negotiate with the abductors.
After he had spoken with his mother, whom sources said was alive and well despite the trauma, the kidnappers changed their demand by asking Okonjo-Iweala to bring the money the Federal Government had recovered from oil marketers who had abused the fuel subsidy scheme.
Further negotiations with the kidnappers made them reduce the ransom from N1 billion to N200 million, it was learnt.
“We are waiting and hope that progress can be made,” one of the sources told THISDAY.
Onyema, in a telephone interview with THISDAY, however, debunked media reports that the kidnappers had demanded $1 billion as ransom.