ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's finance minister on Monday blamed her 83-year-old mother's kidnapping on those angered by the government's decision to stop making some payments for gasoline subsidies, directly linking the abduction to a program that lawmakers have described as a multi-billion dollar scam.
After calling journalists to her office to thank the country for its prayers while her mother was abducted, Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala made the claim that seems to implicate some of the country's top business and political elite. Those are the same people linked to the ruling People's Democratic Party, the party of President Goodluck Jonathan, who appointed the former World Bank official.
Okonjo-Iweala's mother, Kamene Okonjo, was kidnapped Dec. 9 from her hometown of Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State. During her time held captive, Okonjo received no food or water, her daughter said.
Instead, her abductors talked to her about fuel payments and another government program aimed at reinvesting money saved from not making the payments, Okonjo-Iweala said.
"They told her that I must get on the radio and television and announce my resignation," the minister said. "When she asked why, they told her it was because I did not pay oil subsidy money."
Okonjo-Iweala declined to take questions from journalists at the news conference. Her mother was released by her kidnappers Friday. It is unclear if a ransom was paid, though most abductions in Nigeria only end once a payment is made.
Okonjo-Iweala, is a respected economist who became Nigeria's finance minister with extensive powers last year. She was also a possible candidate to head the World Bank before losing the position to the United States' nominee Jim Yong Kim.
As finance minister, Okonko-Iweala pushed 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 Jonathan later reinstated a partial subsidy.