Abducted mother of Nigeria finance minister freed

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 12:30 hrs

The mother of Nigeria's finance minister has been released five days after her abduction, an official said Friday, bringing an end to a family crisis which showed few people are out of reach of kidnapping rings in the oil-rich southern delta.

Paul Nwabuikwu, a spokesman for Nigeria's finance ministry, said in a statement that the mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was released Friday morning. He offered no other details and could not immediately be reached for comment.

It was not immediately clear if arrests had been made or what terms had led to Okonjo's release. Federal police officials could not be immediately reached Friday.

Kamene Okonjo, 83, was kidnapped Sunday afternoon in her hometown of Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State. Her daughter, Okonjo-Iweala, is a respected economist who became a finance minister with extensive powers last year. She was also a possible candidate to head the World Bank before losing the position to U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim.

Ransom kidnappings are frequent in Nigeria's oil-rich delta. Experts say kidnappers whoonce targeted mainly expatriate oil workers have shifted their focus to wealthy Nigerian families in recent years.

The finance minister had received threats prior to the kidnapping, Nwabuikwu has said, though it was not clear if the authors of those threats were behind the kidnapping.

Okonjo-Iweala was instrumental in pushing through a government policy to end subsidies for gasoline in January, a decision that sparked a nationwide strike and widespread protests in Africa's most populous nation. President Goodluck Jonathan later reinstated a partial subsidy Okonjo-Iweala has since said the subsidy must be entirely removed because the country cannot afford it.

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