LAGOS (AFP) – Nigeria’s militant group MEND threatened Saturday to attack South Africa’s investments, including telecoms firm MTN, in the Niger Delta, because of the terror trial of its leader in Johannesburg.
“Our decision to attack South African investments in the Niger Delta is directly related to the conduct of President (Jacob) Zuma regarding the continued incarceration in South Africa of Henry Okah,” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in an e-mail statement here.
Nigerian national Okah is facing trial in South Africa, where he has permanent residence, on charges that he orchestrated twin car bombings — which killed 12 people in Abuja on October 1, 2010 — from his home in Johannesburg. He has denied the charges.
“What is happening in South Africa is a travesty of justice which must be condemned by all,” MEND said, adding that Pretoria was conniving with the Abuja authorities to detain Okah unjustly.
“The South African government is simply being used by the Nigerian government to hold Okah in prison for as long as it possibly can,” it said.
MEND, which claimed Friday’s attack on a facility operated by Agip, the Nigerian subsidiary of Italy’s Eni, said mobile firm MTN would be targeted in its renewed attacks.
“MEND will commence with attacks on MTN South Africa infrastructure in the Niger Delta region,” it said, but added that this will be done after pre-attack warnings.
“Concerning attacks on MTN related infrastructure, MEND will issue shortly a set of guidelines to MTN employees, customers and owners of properties accommodating MTN-related communication equipments,” it said.
“These guidelines are intended to minimise civilian casualties and forestall the unnecessary destruction of privately-owned properties accommodating MTN equipments,” it added.
For several years a MEND-led violent campaign against the oil industry in the southern delta region wreaked havoc with Nigeria’s crude output.
A 2009 government amnesty offer for the militants greatly reduced the attacks after more than 25,000 ex-fighters laid down their arms in exchange for payouts and vocational training.
Most of MEND’s commanders and their fighters took up the amnesty offer, but MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo said the group was never part of the deal.
The group said it was renewing its attacks following the failure of the Nigerian government to meet its demands for the development of the impoverished region.