ABUJA, Dec 09, 2012 (AFP) -The mother of Nigerian Finance Minister and former World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was kidnapped on Sunday from her home in the country's south, a statement from her ministry said.
"Earlier today, Professor (Mrs) Kamene Okonjo ... mother of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was abducted from her home in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State," the statement said.
"At this point, it is difficult to say whether those behind this action are the same people who have made threats against the coordinating minister in the recent past or other elements with hostile motives. No possibility can be ruled out at this point."
Okonjo-Iweala has pushed to clean up corruption in one of the world's most graft-ridden nations, particularly related to a fuel subsidy programme alleged to be riddled with graft.
Kidnappings for ransom have occurred frequently in Nigeria's southern oil-producing Niger Delta region, but rarely with such high-profile victims.
The minister has been struggling with fuel importers over payment of subsidies, with government officials delaying payments to allow for verification of claims.
"This is obviously a very difficult time for the entire Okonjo family," the statement said. "But the family is hopeful of a positive outcome as it fervently prays for the quick and safe return of the matriarch."
The respected Okonjo-Iweala was earlier this year a candidate to head the World Bank, where she previously worked as a managing director. The job eventually went to Korean-American physician Jim Yong Kim though the Nigerian minister was viewed as a strong candidate to break the US lock on the post.
Her father is a traditional ruler in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer with some 160 million people.