Thursday, October 21, 2010

South Africa Brands Henry Okah a Rebel

South Africa brands Henry Okah a rebel

Thursday, 21 October 2010 00:00
Nigeria Guardian
From Emeka Anuforo (Windhoek, Namibia), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Daka Terhemba, Abosede Musari (Abuja) and Alex Olise (Lagos) News - National User

AT the resumed trial of Henry Okah yesterday in Johannesburg over his alleged role in the twin-bomb blasts in Abuja during Nigeria’s golden jubilee celebration, the South Africa government told a Magistrate Court that he is a rebel.

Through the prosecutor, the state argued that the fact that Okah, 45, accepted the Federal Government’s amnesty for militants in the Niger Delta region was enough evidence he was a leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Okah had told the court on Monday that he was never a member of MEND.

"He accepted amnesty and committed himself to working with the Nigerian government in finding peace in the Niger Delta region," state prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said during his closing argument in Okah's bail application.

"The fact that he still supports the rebels' cause, proves that he is still the leader of MEND."

According to Abraham, Okah’s wife, Azuka had referred to him (accused) as the "leader of MEND," a further proof he was an active member of the group.

But Okah's attorney, Rudi Krause, said the prosecutor had not provided sufficient facts linking him to the bombings.

"That is because it (the evidence) does not exist," he said.

The defence insisted the case against Okah was flawed and that the state's evidence didn't prove his involvement in the Abuja blasts, which killed 12 people and injured several others on October 1.

"Contradicting statements from Nigeria about who was responsible for the bombings should not be relied on as evidence," Krause said.

He submitted that two search-and-seizure operations conducted by police at Okah's home showed that the state had a weak case.

The fact that investigating officer, Lt.-Col. Graeme Zeeman conducted a raid without obtaining a search warrant, was an indication he did not have "reasonable belief" he would be granted the document.

Abrahams said "due to the lateness of the hour" police could not obtain a warrant on the eve of the September 30 search-and-seizure.

Zeeman conducted the search as he had reasonable belief, Abrahams said.

There was evidence linking Okah to one of the two men still wanted for the bombing, he said.

Abraham said Okah was classified as a "prohibited person" after irregularities were detected on his application for South African citizenship.

Abrahams said weapons proliferation and money laundering charges were being investigated against Okah. The state insisted he's "the mastermind" behind the attacks.

He said using the pseudonym Jomo Gbomo, Okah sent emails warning about the attacks to the Nigerian authorities. He also sent a go-ahead to his accomplices in Nigeria to detonate the bombs.

Abraham opposed Okah's bail on grounds he had the resources to intimidate and influence witnesses, both in Nigeria and South Africa.

At home, the State Security Services (SSS) has said investigations into the Abuja blasts have not in any way exonerated the Chairman, Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi.

The SSS reiterated its warning to Nigerians to refrain from undue politicisation of the issue for “public safety.”

At a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the agency had warned that the politicisation of the incident by some persons has the propensity to promote insecurity and hinder the rapid development of the country.

Refuting media reports in a terse statement signed by its Assistant Director, Public Relations, Marilyn Ogar yesterday, the SSS explained that Dokpesi was arrested based on information disclosed about him by the suspects still in detention.

Ogar said the SSS release of Dokpesi does not in any way amount to his exoneration since as investigations into the matter were inconclusive.

The police and SSS have received fresh signals to be vigilant following fresh threats by “MEND” carry out another round of bombing of public places and campaign venue of President Goodluck Jonathan. The group had advised members of the public to shun all campaign rallies by Jonathan because they could be victims of attacks not directed at them.

However, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, has described his alleged link with MEND and Okah as “malicious and a wicked blackmail.”

In a statement yesterday, the Minister's Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Ekenwa Akwagbe, denied a report by a Port Harcourt-based newspaper, that he has both business and personal relationship with Okah and MEND.

The medium had alleged that Okah said it was the minister that sent him an invoice to enable him bid for the purchase of guns.

The statement recalled the minister's sacrifice and voyage to all the militant leaders in their various camps in the creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta, an effort which later resulted in their acceptance of the amnesty programme.

Akwagbe said it was “evil for anybody to want to link the minister with travails of somebody that has decided to carry his fate in his own hands.

“As soon as Elder Orubebe was appointed a minister of the Federal Republic, the first task he saddled himself with was to convince the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on the need to engage militant leaders one-on-one, to talk them over to embrace peace.

“It must be made clear to the media and the general public that Elder Godsday Orubebe, the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, has no relationship of any kind, official or otherwise with Mr. Henry Okah.”

Observers however finger politicians, especially opponents of the President in the new threats. According to them, this could be part of the strategies by some politicians, who embittered over Jonathan’s bid, to frustrate Jonathan out of the race.

The Guardian learnt that the acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Hafiz Abubakar Ringim, met with top operational officers to strategize on how to check the excesses of MEND.

Already, the Commissioner of Police (Anti-Bomb Command), Mr. Chris Olakpe, has deployed more of its personnel to Abuja with a view to ensuring adequate security of the residents.

In Namibia, President Hifikepuye Pohamba, has said despite the losses recorded at Nigeria's 50th anniversary celebration bomb blasts, the planners failed to break the people’s spirit.

The President, who spoke at the 50th independence anniversary celebration organised by the Nigerian High Commission in that country, expressed his condolences to Nigeria over the unfortunate incident.

Represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Utoni Nujoma, Pohamba congratulated Nigerians and urged them not to be distracted by the blasts.

He joined Nigeria to call for the reform of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council to be inclusive, equitable and give Africa an appropriate voice in global affairs.

He said: “We were shocked hearing that while the people of Nigeria were celebrating their 5oth anniversary peacefully, those with evil intensions tried to disrupt the celebrations with bomb blasts. They failed to break the spirit of the people of Nigeria. I would like to express to you, and through you, to the government and people of Nigeria, our heartfelt condolences to those who lost their loved ones in the bomb blasts on October 1, 2010. May their souls rest in peace.”

Northern leaders on the platform of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), have again urged Jonathan to move against the current spate of insecurity in Nigerian, saying that such situation could negatively impact on socio-economic and political development.

They said that if foreign governments could put their nationals on alert with respect to Nigeria’s internal security, the government should rise up to the task of bringing sanity to the system by decisively dealing with the unpatriotic Nigerians who are undermining the nation’s security.

In a statement issued after their National Executive Committee (NEC) parley, the leaders said: “The meeting took note of the upsurge in insecurity of life and property across the nation, as symbolised by bomb blasts, threats of attacks, rampant cases of kidnappings, killing of security agents and civilians by suspected members of Boko Haram in the North-East geopolitical zone of the country.”

A group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has urged Jonathan to set up an endowment fund for the immediate family members of the victims of the Abuja explosions.

It canvassed the payment of N50 million to the direct survivors/children of victims and at least N10 million to each of those who sustained various degrees of injuries during the attack.

In a statement, its National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Director of Media Affairs, Miss Zainab Yusuf, also sought scholarships for the children of the victims.

No comments: