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‘Okah vows: It is fight to the finish’

By Kayode Matthew, News Editor, with agency report
LAGOS—A JOHANNESBURG court in South Africa was told, yesterday, that former militant leader, Henry Okah, who is facing trial for allegedly masterminding the October 1 twin bomb blasts in Abuja had vowed two weeks before the incident that it was going to be a “fight to the finish”.

This revelation was made by state prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, on the third day of the hearing of Okah’s bail application.

The state prosecutor said that Okah wrote in his diary on September 19 that “we will fight to the finish.”
Okah acknowledged the diaries were his and that he made the entry but said it had nothing to do with his involvement in the armed conflict in the Niger Delta. He, however, denied any links to the October 1 bomb blasts.

Okah who is residing in South Africa, has been charged with conspiracy and terrorism over the bomb blasts that claimed 14 lives and injured several others. South African prosecutors and police said he was the mastermind behind the bombings in Nigeria.

South African authorities seized the diaries and invoices for the purchases of large amounts of arms when they raided Okah’s home in Johannesburg at the time of the blasts.

Other diary entries talk about weapons such as surface-to-air missiles, assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, military tactics, training camps, command structures and possible kidnapping.

At the hearing, the prosecutor asked Okah, “Your purpose in writing this down is to give guidance and assistance to the militants.” In his response Okah said “I am not a fighter.”

Henry Okah, in handcuffs, at the Johannesburg court in South Africa, yesterday. Photo: AFP

While describing himself as nothing more than a well_connected and interested observer who was expressing his shared concern for the people of the Delta when he made the diary entries, Okah said: “I hear of them (military attacks) after the fact. When something in the Niger Delta happens, I get calls.”

State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told the court that Okah was one of the people involved in sending an email warning of the attack. He asked the 45 year old Okah: “Do you know anyone by the name of Jomo Gbomo or JG?” He responded: “No.”

Abrahams quoted a letter entitled “A close look at Jomo Gbomo” and said that Gbomo was Okah’s pseudonym. He noted: “The letter was written by Okah’s wife. The Nigerian authorities have, however, traced the e-mails to Gbomo.”

Gbomo’s activities since 2007

He said the content of the letter revealed Gbomo’s activities since 2007, noting that her 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 was downloaded from the internet.

Abraham said: “I put it to you that the email was sent by your brother Charles. The one who was arrested on Saturday.”
Okah said he did not know whether his brother sent the e-mail, stressing that he had become a target of the Nigerian government because of his connections adding that they were trying to deflect blame on to him for the deaths.

Okah’s lawyer, Rudi Krause, said state prosecutors had yet to produce evidence linking Okah to the bombings.
He said: “We don’t have any idea on what these charges are premised.”

The state has accused Okah of giving instructions for the bombs to be detonated in Abuja. Prosecutors and police said Okah was in touch with the suspected bombers before and after the blasts.

Meanwhile the bail application against Okah was postponed in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court, yesterday.  Okah, who testified in his bail application, will have to wait until Wednesday to hear whether he would be granted bail.

The attacks in Abuja were claimed by MEND. Security experts believe that Okah, who accepted a government amnesty last year after gun_running and treason charges against him were dropped,  was at one time the brains behind MEND..

On Sunday, the State Security Service arrested Okah’s brother a day after a warning was e-mailed to the media that another bomb attack was planned for Abuja.

Okah faces charges of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing and detonating explosive devices.

Case is ludicrous – Okah

Meanwhile, Henry Okah has said that he was the victim of a conspiracy and described the case against him as “ludicrous.”

Okah, ex-leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, which claimed responsibility for the twin car bombings, was arrested at his home in Johannesburg on October 2, the day after the blasts killed 12 people.

South African police said that Okah played a leading role in the attacks, acting under the pseudonym Jomo Gbomo, the name signed to MEND’s statement claiming responsibility for the bombings, and to another statement released Friday saying a fresh attack was imminent.

Okah told AFP by telephone from a Johannesburg prison on Sunday: “That’s ludicrous,” adding: “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 phone. 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.”
Okah said he sympathised with those fighting to change the distribution of oil revenue in the Delta, the restive heart of Nigeria’s oil industry.

But he denied involvement in the blasts, saying his arrest on “terrorism” charges was part of a political plot by President Goodluck Jonathan, a native of the Delta, to discredit his opponents ahead of elections next year.

He added: “It is about these elections and the Nigerian government’s belief that I’m working on the side of the opposition.”

Okah said he received a text message from one of Jonathan’s advisors after the blasts asking him to have MEND retract its claim of responsibility for the attacks.

Claiming that the government planned to place the blame on the President’s political rivals from the North, Okah said: “The president doesn’t want it to seem that his government is being fought against by people from his place.”

Speaking two days after the warning, Okah said he did not believe in violence as a means to resolve the conflict in the Delta.

He said: “Nothing is achieved except through dialogue. I don’t see violence as a means towards getting the crisis in the Delta resolved. Those who practice violence I believe are just simply trying to draw attention to themselves.”

Okah said he feared Nigeria’s government could try to have him assassinated in prison, stressing:”I fear for my life. I’m not eating. I’ve never eaten. Sometimes I don’t eat for like two days, sometimes three days. I eat biscuits when I get them.”


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