South African prosecutors have claimed that Henry Okah, the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, ordered the twin car bombings that left 16 people dead during Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary in Abuja.
According to the Agence France Presse, the prosecutors, who spoke during Okah’s bail hearing at a Johannesburg Magistrate’s court on Monday, said that he instructed the suspected bombers to detonate the explosives by phone.
“Investigations have… revealed that you are one of the persons who gave the directive for the explosives to be detonated,” the leading prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, said while cross-examining Okah at the hearing.
“The available evidence clearly implicates you insofar as modus operandi is concerned and insofar as giving the instructions are concerned.”
Okah, who was arrested at his home in Johannesburg on October 2, denies the accusation, but the AFP quoted the prosecutors as saying “that investigations indicated the blasts were caused by sacks of dynamite detonated by cell phone under orders from Okah.”
But the suspect, who insisted that he was not the leader of MEND, described himself as an “respected” leader of the Niger Delta people.
“I am a respected leader of the people of the Niger Delta,” Okah said, adding that he was only a victim of a conspiracy.
Shortly after his release from detention in Nigeria and discontinuation of his prosecution by the Federal Government last year, Okah had tried to dispel insinuations that he was MEND leader.
The hearing of his bail application returned repeatedly to evidence seized from his house when police arrested him, including a quotation for weapons from a Chinese arms dealer and diaries that the prosecutors say tie him to the armed conflict in Niger Delta.
Portions of the diaries read aloud in court contained lists of weapons, including anti-tank mines, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns.
However, Okah dismissed them, saying the lists were merely notes he wrote while reading warfare books for intellectual purposes.
Okah told the court that studying guerrilla warfare was a passion of his and that the lists reflected an ”intellectual interest.”
Abrahams also grilled Okah about papers found at his house on October 2.
“This is the first time I see this document,” he said, referring to a document which described him as ”distinguished businessman and chosen leader of MEND.”
He denied this, saying he was an “accepted” leader of the people Niger Delta people and a sympathiser “to the cause” but not of MEND.
“I am a respected leader of the people of Niger Delta,” Okah said.
Abrahams told the court that Okah was one of the people involved in sending an email warning of the attacks.
“Do you know anyone by the name of Jomo Gbomo or JG?,” he asked him.
“No,” he responded.
Abrahams quoted from a letter allegedly written by Okah‘s wife, Azuka , entitled, ”A close look at Jomo Gbomo” and said that Gbomo was Okah‘s pseudonym.
The Nigerian government traced the emails to Gbomo.
The prosecutor added that the content of the letter revealed Gbomo‘s activities since 2007, and that the description of the man was actually a description of Okah.
Okah denied this and told the court that his wife was a writer, who downloaded a lot of documents from the internet.
The letter, he said, was not originally written by his wife but a downloaded material.
“I put it to you that the email was sent by your brother Charles. The one who was arrested on Saturday,” Abrahams told Okah.
Bur Okah said he did not know whether his brother sent the email.
Charles was arrested in Lagos at the weekend for allegedly being the man behind threats on behalf of MEND.
When Abrahams asked why his wife would refer to him as the leader of MEND in a letter addressed to the media, Okah replied, “I think she did it for clarity, because a lot of the media refer to me as a leader of MEND.”
He also told the court of how he arranged for journalists to go into guerrilla camps.
Abrahams, however, used Okah‘s statement to emphasise how MEND used the media to communicate its attacks.
Confirming he was a war expert, Okah said he receives about 200 calls per day from people concerned about what was happening in the Niger Delta.
He was questioned about his statement from a diary which reads: ”We need heavier equipment and money.”
Okah answered that this was a general feeling amongst people who knew what was going on in that region.
The MEND leader compared himself to Julius Malema of the African National Congress, who is regarded as the leader of youths but heads no group.
“ I am just like Malema who is accepted here in South Africa as the leader of the youth, but is not the leader of any movement,” the 45-year-old businessman said.
Okah later described the case against him as “ludicrous” in a telephone interview he granted the Associated Press.
He said, “That case is ludicrous. If I was leading militant activities, I wouldn‘t be here in South Africa. I should be there on the ground with them.
“You can‘t lead operations by telephone. It‘s impossible. I would have been there with them. But of course I‘m not doing that. I‘m more like a political leader of our struggle.
“I‘m a voice that the people listen to. The real fighters in the Niger Delta listen to my voice.”
After the prosecution concluded its cross-examination, magistrate judge Hein Louw called the weapons inventory ”something that worries me.”
”It seems to be a purchase list from my point of view,” he said. ”If you were in my position would this not seem very incriminating to you?” he asked Okah.
Okah said the weapons were not of a type used in the Delta, and called the lists ”suspicious, but not incriminating”.
The bail hearing began last week and is to continue Wednesday.
Source: Punch Newspaper – www.punchng.com