*FG wants undertaking for his return
* We are dealing with a very dangerous situation-his lawyer
By Wahab Abdullahi
GERMANY, Israel and Egypt are not disposed to accepting ailing Henry Okah for medical treatment on the strength of a condition by the Federal Government that they sign an undertaking to return him to Nigeria after his treatment. They have accordingly declined to have himon their shores for treatment.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, leader, who is being touted by government as a beneficiary of its amnesty, is currently facing secret trial in Jos for treason and treasonable felony.
Interior Minister, Major-General Godwin Abbe, is scheduled to meet him in his detention camp and formally extend the amnesty to him. Okahâ€™s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, told Sunday Vanguard that it was not even automatic that he would accept the amnesty because as he (Falana) said, Okah wants to see first â€œin black and whiteâ€ what the amnesty is all about.
At the last hearing of Okahâ€™s case on Friday, his prosecutor, Mr. Salihu Ibrahim, said efforts to fly the accused person abroad had not yielded fruits because none of the countries contacted was willing to accept him.
He did not say why, but when Sunday Vanguard contacted Mr. Falana, he said it was because of Nigeriaâ€™s insistence that the countries should sign an undertaking to return him to Nigeria at the completion of his treatment. The countries declined to sign any such undertaking prompting government to opt for the importation of the equipment and experts for the treatment. Mr. Falana is now faulting this option, saying it is a long process.
â€œWe are dealing with a very dangerous situation. Getting experts and equipment into the country would take several weeks for the process to completeâ€, he said. â€œWe are dealing with a life threatening situation as his two kidneys may pack up any moment from now.
We were flabbergasted when the government at the last proceeding said there was no country ready to accept him. Before that time, when we asked about the development on taking him abroad for treatment from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, they always referred us to the SSS office for clarification.
â€œSo, we were taken aback when the government said in court that they had contacted three countries and they rejected him. If we had been taken into confidence by the government over this, we would have arranged for his travelling.
What the government wants from those countries where he could be treated was that they would sign an undertaking to ensure his return to Nigeria, and that would be difficult. Our application before the court is that if the government is not ready to treat him, his family would be ready to do that.
â€œThe application was made pursuant to Regulation 12 of the Prison Act. So, let them do something to treat the man before it is too late. Five weeks ago, the learned prosecution counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice told the court that all arrangements had been concluded to fly him (Okah) out of the country for treatment.
After this, they requested his wife, Azuka, to rush down from South Africa where she resides to come back and submit her passport with a view to accompanying her husband for treatmentâ€.
Meanwhile, Mr. Falana, at Fridayâ€™s hearing of the court, regretted the delay in the planned visit of the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abbe, to discuss the issue of amnesty with Okah.
He said his client needed to be alive to enjoy the amnesty or to even continue to face trial. He told Justice Mohammed Liman that his earlier order that Okah be given medical attention had not been obeyed.
The court had given the order based on the medical report of a government surgeon which recommended specialist medical attention for him (Okah) because of his bad left kidney. Responding to the excuse given by the DPP for not carrying out the order, Falana complained that the defence team was not taken into confidence on the efforts made as claimed by the prosecution.
He said government should either take him abroad for treatment as ordered by the court or release him to his parents to take care of and be made to sign an undertaken to produce him for trial in accordance with the Prisons Act.
Justice Liman therefore gave government one week to conclude arrangements for the proper treatment of the accused or the court would be forced to consider the option suggested by the defence. He adjourned the case to July 17. Okah was driven to the court amidst the usual tight security contrary to expectations that the atmosphere would be more relaxed because of the amnesty issue.