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Nigeria Policemen Held Over Kidnap of Minister’s Mother

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s army arrested 63 people linked to the kidnapping of the mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala after a raid in the town where she was seized, a military spokeswoman said.

“We’re interrogating them to know their level of involvement,” Rose Managbe, a spokeswoman for the Nigerian army, said by phone late yesterday from the southern commercial hub of Onitsha.

Two police officers were also detained for alleged negligence in the abduction of Kaneme Okonjo, 82, who was seized from her home in the town of Ogwasi-Ukwu, in southern Delta state, on Dec. 9.

“They were not arrested for the kidnap,” Charles Muka, police spokesman in Delta state, said today by phone from the capital, Asaba. “They were supposed to be on duty at the palace, but they were not there at the time the kidnappers struck. We’re dealing with them departmentally.”

Okonjo-Iweala, who became finance minister for the second time in August 2011, has worked to reverse expansionary budgets and backed President Goodluck Jonathan’s move to cut a subsidy on gasoline in January. Under her tenure, the ministry also rejected unverified subsidy claims by gasoline importers.

Muka declined to say whether the kidnappers had made contact with the family and said the police aren’t aware of any ransom demand. Lagos-based Vanguard newspaper reported that the kidnappers said they wanted 200 million naira ($1.3 million), citing an unidentified security official.

Attacks by armed groups, including abductions of foreigners working for oil companies, cut more than 28 percent of output in Africa’s top crude producer from 2006 to 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The violence subsided after a government amnesty program in 2009.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elisha Bala-Gbogbo in Abuja at ebalagbogbo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dulue Mbachu at dmbachu@bloomberg.net

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