More Trouble for Henry Okah
Henry Okah, leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, faces more charges in a South African court
Henry Okah, former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, who is currently standing trial in South Africa over the Abuja blasts of October 1, 2010, is walking a tight rope in his efforts to get bail. He has been denied bail twice. Now, his prosecutors in South Africa have concluded arrangements to bring additional terrorism charges against him in connection with two explosions that rocked Warri, Delta State, on May 15, last year. Shaun Abrahams, lead prosecutor, said the charges relate to the acts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, He asked the court to adjourn to enable him conduct further investigations before bringing in additional charges against Okah.
Even Rudi Krause, Okah’s lawyer, did not object to the request. Hence, Hein Louw, the trial magistrate, granted the request and ordered that the suspect be remanded in prison custody.
During the court proceeding that lasted for only 15 minutes, security was tightened around the Johannesburg’s regional court as the trial of the militant leader resumed. South Africa’s move to lay new charges against former MEND leader comes after Nigeria’s intelligence agency accused Okah of orchestrating the Warri blasts which rocked the city during talks on an amnesty for repentant Niger Delta militants.
The blast killed one person that time. Okah, who is struggling to effect his release claimed that he had never been the leader of MEND and denied any link to the independence day blasts in Abuja. Okah’s wife also denied any involvement in the Warri attacks. Okah appeared briefly in the Johannesburg, court before the case was adjourned to June 21, for further investigation.
Okah was arrested in South Africa immediately after the blasts in Abuja, during the Nigeria 50th anniversary celebration on October 1, 2010, and was charged with terrorism.
In an affidavit read in the court, the South Africa police claimed that they searched Okah’s home and found receipts for the purchase of thousands of submachine guns, rockets launchers and anti-aircraft machine guns. They also claimed that Okah and Azuka, his wife, own properties worth more than one million dollars in South Africa.
But Krause has urged the presiding judge to quash charges against his client as the affidavits submitted by the Nigeria government were inconsistent. He also argued that Okah was entitled to medical treatment which would not be available in prison.
To make sure Okah’s bail application was not granted, Mohammed Adoke, minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, had sent a written affidavit. In it, he urged the magistrate not to grant bail to Okah because it would jeorpadise the trial. Adoke said that the accused had been engaged in warfare and economic sabotage. Some of the acts of economic sabotage brought against him include theft, pipeline vandalisation and other illegalities. But in a counter affidavit read by his defence counsel, Okah denied any involvement in the bomb blasts.
Okah was alleged to have planned the detonation of bombs in Abuja, last year to destabilise President Goodluck Jonathan’s government. He was reported to have claimed that Jonathan was responsible for his extradition from Angola, to Nigeria, in 2007, when he was charged with treason. The October 1 incident was alleged to be his own revenge.