Okah was in contact with Abuja bombers- S'African Police

THE PUNCH Newspaper

The leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Mr. Henry Okah, was in contact with the militants who set off twin car bombs during Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary in Abuja on October 1, the South African police have said.

Okah was arrested in Johannesburg after the blasts that killed at 16 people and injured 66 others. MEND had claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Reuters reported that the South African police made these claims in an affidavit read by a prosecutor at a bail hearing for the MEND leader in a Johannesburg court on Thursday.

But the Police refused to reveal the evidence backing their claims, saying that they had to protect their confidential sources.

Okah was described as the ‘mastermind’ of the blasts, who was in contactwith the bombers before and after the incident.

However, in a counter affidavit read by his lawyer, Okah denied “any involvement whatsoever with the bomb acts.”

The police said they searched Okah‘s home and found receipts for the purchase of thousands of submachine guns, rockets launchers and anti-aircraft machine guns, but did not find any weapons.

They also claimed to have found that Okah and his wife, Azuka, own about 10 properties in South Africa valued at over $1m.

Reuters added in its report that Okah, who was dressed in a brown sweat shirt and jeans, shook his head and laughed, when a prosecutor read the affidavit.

In the affidavit, the attorney- general said the MEND leader was engaged in economic sabotage and had links to various terrorists groups. The court later adjourned before a decision was made on whether to grant Okah bail. It will resume on Friday.

The South African police also said they had seized diaries that included entries on “guerrilla fighters, training discipline, the use of explosives, boats and night vision.”

In an entry dated September 19, 2010, Okah wrote: ”God is with us. We will fight to the end.”

The Nigerian Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN ), sent a written affidavit, pleading for the magistrate not to release Okah.

According to him, granting the bail will jeopardise the trial.

Adoke alleged that Okah had been engaged in warfare and ”economic sabotage” against Nigeria since 2005.

He added in the affidavit that Okah was also involved in kidnapping, oil theft, pipeline vandalism and other illegalities.

He added that many incriminating documents were found in Okah’s home when it was searched on September 30, prior to the bomb blasts in Abuja.

Among the documents was a quotation from a Chinese company for the supply of guns, mortars and other such devices.

He said that a large number of camouflage uniforms like the ones used by MEND in Nigeria were also seized from him.

Okah, in an affidavit read by Klause, claimed the e-mail messages warning on the blasts and accepting responsibility were all from within Nigeria, as there was nothing linking him with it.

He said a search on his house before the explosion revealed nothing incriminating and he was released after his initial arrest on September 30.

Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has withdrawn from the Aaron Initiative recommended by MEND as an alternative to the amnesty programme of the Federal Government.

The AI, which was headed by Soyinka on MEND’s recommendation, met about twice with former President Umaru Yar’Adua before his death in May 2010.

This was just as Vice-President Namadi Sambo on Thursday restated government’s determination to punish the culprits and sponsors of the October 1 twin car bomb blasts in Abuja, which claimed 12 lives.

THE PUNCH had sent an SMS enquiry to Soyinka, asking about how MEND’s claim of responsibility for the attacks would affect the initiative.

But the playwright, in a short SMS response on Wednesday, said he withdrew from the peace process before the twin car bombings.

He added that he had since July 2010 warned that he would pull out of the process because of lack of ‘seriousness’ in the negotiations.

Soyinka, however, did not say if the lack of seriousness was on the part of the Federal Government or MEND.

“Even before the Abuja bomb blasts, I had withdrawn from this initiative. I gave warning of this likelihood as far back as July, citing a lack of seriousness.

“I have since sent word that I had taken the decision to pull out,” he said.

But MEND also said on Wednesday that the programme had failed to address the fundamental issues that caused the crisis in the Niger Delta.

The group’s spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, who responded to questions from THE PUNCH through an e-mail, said no key MEND members had embraced the amnesty programme.

Gbomo said that only the implementation of the Niger Delta Technical Committee headed by Mr. Ledum Mitee, would resolve the crises in the region.

When asked which of the presidential aspirants would best address the Niger Delta crisis, he said that three of them neglected opportunities to do something concrete about it in the past.

In apparent reference to President Goodluck Jonathan, who is one of the aspirants, Gbomo said, “One has the opportunity now but has done nothing significant.”

But he dismissed the allegation that MEND was bent on destabilising Jonathan’s administration, saying, “We have not done anything different.”

The interview with Gbomo reads in part:

What actually are the grievances of MEND against the amnesty programme of the Federal Government.?

The amnesty programme has not addressed the root issues tat led to the unrest in the first place. It has been hijacked by con men for a money making scheme and has become one big scam.

If key members of MEND have embraced it, why has your faction not embraced it?

No key member of MEND has embraced the amnesty. The only two persons were in the rank of commanders and that is not significant. There are no factions in the group.

In concrete terms, how can the problems be addressed?

It is simple. It first has to be tabled and addressed. The government is even avoiding the Ledum Mitee report and that is clearly an indication they are not willing to address this injustice.

How do you react to an allegation that the October 1 bombing was a betrayal of the Niger Deltans, who you are fighting for?

It was a golden opportunity to highlight the unresolved issues in the region and our objective was achieved.


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