Our bombs were not planted to kill

2010-10-05
THE PUNCH Newspaper

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has said that the twin bombings in Abuja on Friday were not programmed to kill anyone.

MEND, in e-mail exclusive interviews with THE PUNCH on Monday evening, blamed the deaths on the State Security Service and other security agencies whom it said treated its “forewarning” with levity.

“We asked them to keep the public away from cars ... We were surprised that the security agencies ignored our forewarning and treated it with levity,” the group’s spokesman, Mr. Jomo Gbomo, said in the first phase of the interview.

MEND had claimed responsibility for the bombings which left 14 people dead and 66 others injured on a day Nigeria celebrated its 50th independence anniversary.

President Goodluck Jonathan had on Saturday, distanced the group from the attacks and blamed it on “members of a small terrorist group outside the country who were sponsored by unpatriotic elements within the country.”

MEND leader, Mr. Henry Okah, was arrested in South Africa shortly after the bomb blasts.

He was arraigned in a Johnannesburg court on Monday for “contravening the Protection Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.”

Okah denied the charge and his alleged involvement in the Abuja blasts.

The interview with Gbomo ran thus:

What is the nature of the warnings you gave to the Federal Government days before the bombings?

We passed the warning through our contacts in the SSS informing them we planned to carry out a symbolic attack during the ceremony. As it was not intended to kill, there would be no projectiles inside the cars.

We asked them to keep the public away from cars after they hear the first explosion which would not be as powerful as the remaining (one).

What was the response?

The Director-General, of the SSS tried to make contacts with those they believed could help stop the plan from going ahead because they admitted that they had no response for that sort of attack.

Okah also tried to persuade us to abort the attack. He said that he was contacted by the SSS to intervene. We explained to him that the attack was symbolic and it was not intended to cause any casualties.

We were surprised that the security agencies ignored our forewarning and treated it with levity. We had to give another warning again on the day of the attack after our operatives informed us they had successfully breached security.

How did foreign intelligence agencies get wind of your plan?

I have no idea. I believe that they work on probability and profiling. Knowing that we took advantage in Warri, to make a statement, it is only common sense to suspect the independence event with full international and local media coverage is an opportunity we will find irresistible.

Is it true that the bombings were in retaliation for the murder of Soboma George, who was alleged to be planning to kill someone close to President Jonathan?

It had nothing to do with the killing of George.

Okah has denied involvement in the bombings but he is being described as the mastermind. How do you react to that?

We find the accusations that Okah is the mastermind as incredible as the purported arrests the police are claiming

There are reports that Majaheedeen Asari-Dokubo sponsored the attacks and that they were planned in Rivers State. How do you react to that?

That is not true. Asari-Dokubo has no affiliation with MEND

Don‘t you think the bombings and killing of innocent people will wipe away any iota of sympathy for the Niger Delta struggle?

The death of civilians is regrettable. However, the struggle continues. It may certainly reduce our sympathy base but the success of our campaign is not directly related to the number of passive sympathisers although it is nice to know many people sympathise with ones cause.

You said MEND carried out the attacks but President Jonathan has said it is not MEND but terrorists. How do you react to that?

We have taken responsibility and have no further comments.

Will this development not affect the peace initiative of Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka?

It should not. Instead it should make the government take our demands seriously.

The President has said that his ascension to the Presidency is an indication that things will improve in the Niger Delta. So, why do you sustain a campaign of violence when you have a Niger Deltan in power?

Talk is cheap. The actions we are expecting from him is yet to be seen. He has not initiated dialogue where the root issues affecting the region would be addressed.

Today (Monday) marks the first anniversary of the amnesty proclamation. Don‘t you think it is in the best interest of Niger Delta people you claim to represent for you to embrace amnesty and press your demands in a non-violent way?

The amnesty is a scam and the majority of individuals in the so-called rehabilitation camps are hired miscreants. We can not be a part of the scam.

The fact that we are armed does not mean we abuse it. We are open to dialog but will keep our weapons until the issues have been addressed.




 

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