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Okonjo-Iweala: Kidnappers quizzed my mum on subsidy payments

By The Citizen
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Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Monday said those who abducted her mother, Prof. Kamene Okonjo, told her that she (the minister) withheld fuel subsidy funds meant for oil marketers.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday, Okonjo-Iweala said the period was a difficult one for the family, adding that her mother stayed for five days without food and water.

She said, '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 that rescued her from a situation that could very easily have ended tragically.  Apart from the emotional trauma of being violently taken away from her family and kept incommunicado for five days in a strange environment, a woman of 83 years was left without food for five days.

'While she was in their custody, the kidnappers spent much of the time harassing her. They told her that I must get on the radio and television and announce my resignation.  When she asked why, they told her it was because I did not pay oil subsidy money.

'They also said I had blocked payment of money to certain components of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme.'

The finance minister said these statements were untrue, adding that genuine marketers whose claims had been verified have been paid.

She said, 'These statements are, of course, not true. In the case of subsidy payments, we have been paying all marketers whose claims have been verified by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee after going through the necessary processes.

'For marketers whose transactions are proven to be fraudulent, the position of the Goodluck Jonathan government is also clear: we cannot and we will not pay. We will not back down on this. We will continue to stand firm.'

She added, 'In the case of SURE-P, there is a totally different process that I have no control over. This is the right thing to do. And this, I believe is what the Nigerian people want.'

The minister said the experience had rekindled her resolve to discharge her duties effectively to the country.

She added, 'This experience has strengthened my faith in the country. The outpouring of love from all over the country has been simply overwhelming.'

The octogenarian, who was kidnapped on December 9 regained her freedom last Friday after spending five days in the kidnappers' den.