Nigeria's army says soldiers have arrested 63 people in raids
as they searched for the finance minister's 82-year-old
mother, kidnapped from her home on Sunday.
It was still not known whether the abduction of Kamene
Okonjo, mother of former World Bank director Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala, in Delta state, was political or for financial
"Yesterday the Four Brigade raided Ogwashi-Ukwu in search of
Mama," army spokeswoman Roseline Managbe told Reuters.
"Those arrested are being questioned," she added.
Africa's top oil producer has one of the world's most
prolific kidnapping industries, yet Sunday's abduction
shocked even residents of Delta state, thought to be
Managbe said two Lebanese men working for Nigerian
construction company Setraco had been abducted on Tuesday in
Delta state by gunmen who killed a soldier protecting them.
Residents of the Niger Delta oil region, where
Okonjo-Iweala's mother was abducted, live in fear of the near
daily abductions that make millions of dollars in ransoms for
"It could be my turn tomorrow," said Tony Agwu, who lives
near Okonjo's house.
"It's a terrible situation down here. The security agents in
the Delta are compromised," he added, voicing the widely held
view that security forces are often complicit.
The police said on Wednesday that two policemen have been
arrested on suspicion of helping kidnappers.
Nigerians say December is the most dangerous month for
kidnapping, when criminals need money to buy Christmas
presents. The delta is no exception.
"Around this time, I start to get worried," said Shopia
Oko-Akoko, a civil servant and mother of two in Bayelsa
state, adding that she often looks over her shoulder entering
"Many times I've seen cars following me. Once someone
followed me on foot and I ran off in terror as he
Okonjo's kidnapping is a risky strategy for the abductors.
"If it's just a kidnap for ransom, then they're not the
smartest boys in the world," said Peter Sharwood-Smith,
Nigeria country manager of security firm Drum Cussac.
"Everybody else learned that you don't pick the most high
profile. It's not worth it. This might not end well for
Nigerian forces have little tolerance for kidnappers, whom
they often shoot on sight when they catch them - as they did
in November to 13 people suspected of abducting a Turkish
Cases of kidnapping in the Niger Delta exploded in around
2006, during the years of militancy by armed groups often
targeting expatriate oil workers. An amnesty in 2009
officially ended militant activity, yet associated crimes,
like oil theft from pipelines and abduction, have, if
"Kidnapping is worse than during the militancy period, but
it's mostly rich Nigerians who pay up and you never hear
about it," Sharwood-Smith said.
Political motives have been suggested for the abduction.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's drive to reform a corrupt economy
ruffled powerful vested interests, especially fuel importers.
A security source in Delta state said Okonjo was involved in
local politics and seizing her may have been a scare tactic.
Either way, recruiting kidnappers is easy in a region where
oil wealth sits along side mass unemployment.
"Whatever the motive, the main cause is joblessness," said
Felix Osaduwe, a student in Delta state. "Get them jobs in a
bank or a firm, there's no way they'll turn to kidnapping."