By Kayode Matthew, News Editor, with agency report
SOUTH AFRICAN prosecutor, yesterday, told a Johannesburg court that former leader of the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, Mr. Henry Okah, who is facing trial for allegedly masterminding the October 1 bomb blasts in Abuja, was in contact with perpetrators immediately before and after the attacks.
South African Prosecution Counsel, Shaun Abrahams, who was speaking at Okah’s bail hearing, read an affidavit by the lead police investigator in the case that said Okah, 45, who denies any involvement, had a “leading role in the explosions.”
Abrahams said: “The persons responsible for the execution of the bomb attacks were in direct communication with the applicant immediately before the explosives were detonated and immediately after the detonation went off.”
Police also said they seized incriminating items from Okah’s house when he was arrested, including an invoice from a Chinese arms company for guns and grenade launchers and a journal that Abrahams argued links Okah to the attacks.
Abrahams said that a letter from Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, opposed the bail because it believed that Okah, in concert with others, was responsible for the Oct. 1 explosions.
In the letter, the Attorney General said that Okah had been working with others to wage a war against Nigeria since 2005 and had been involved in kidnapping, oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism and other illegalities, adding that granting the bail will jeopardise the trial.
Abrahams said the prosecution was also opposed to the bail because several incriminating documents were found in Okah’s home when it was searched on Sept. 30, prior to the bomb blasts in Abuja.
Quotation from a Chinese company
Among the documents was a quotation from a Chinese company for the supply of guns, mortars and other such devices, adding that Okah’s Permanent Residence Permit in South Africa was also questionable.
He said that a large number of camouflage uniforms like the ones used by MEND in Nigeria were also seized from him while investigations showed that he had calls from some of those arrested in Nigeria over the explosions shortly before and after the incident.
Abrahams will continue his argument today as the court adjourned after two hours.
At the hearing of his bail application, yesterday, Okah denied any role in the blasts that claimed 16 lives and injured several others.
In the charge cited as State Vs Henry Imomotimi Okah, the defence counsel, Rudi Krause, opened proceedings by challenging the prosecution for not having the necessary certificate to proceed with the prosecution of his client.
He argued that Okah’s presence in court was unlawful and that since there was no certificate, the court should strike out the case against him and release him. The request forced Magistrate Hein Louw to adjourn.
The presiding judge, however, said that Okah could still be re-arrested even if he released him, and the State was able to get the certificate the same day. The court then proceeded on a short recess.
A new turn to the prosecution, however, emerged after court recess, as the prosecution counsel confirmed that it now had “an authorisation certificate by the NDPP (National Director of Public Prosecution) to institute charges in terms of The Terrorism Act (against Okah).” This document is also known as a “Section 61 certificate.”
After the court’s resumption from recess, the prosecution announced the acquisition of the Section 61 certificate, while the judge examined the document and announced that judgment will be delivered on the case by 2.00 p.m.
However, when the case resumed later, the prosecution tendered the certificate to authorise prosecution while Okah’s counsel applied for his bail.
Henry Okah, ex-leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, which claimed responsibility for October 1 twin car bombings, was arrested in Johannesburg the day after the blasts killed 16 people.
The court also rejected Okah’s application to strike out the charge brought against him. He had told the court he had no hand in the bomb attacks.
Moving the application earlier, Klause said Okah had denied any links with those involved in the blasts.
He said there were conflicting signals in Nigeria on those behind the blasts while he was in South Africa when the incident took place.
Affidavit by Okah’s lawyer
Okah, in an affidavit read by Klause, claimed the e-mail messages warning on the blasts and accepting responsibility were all from within Nigeria as there was nothing linking him with it.
He said a search on his house before the explosion revealed nothing incriminating and he was released after his initial arrest on Sept. 30.
In an affidavit filed by Okah which was read out in court by his lawyer, Rudi Krause, he said:
“My arrest has nothing to do with a proper police investigation but rather a devious political ploy by politicians in Nigeria to gain the upper hand over their political opponents. I simply deny any involvement of any kind in the bombing attacks. The fact of the matter is simply that I was arrested after the bomb attacks to appease the Nigerian government.”
Okah added that President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the attacks has caused the leader “serious embarrassment.”The former MEND leader has been in South African custody since his arrest. He was granted his own cell after the court ruled that his life might be at risk in jail.
He was arrested in Angola three years ago and transferred to Nigerian custody.He was released as part of an amnesty programme offered to militants in the Niger Delta, the heart of Nigeria’s oil industry, and lives in Johannesburg. The trial judge said he will pass judgment on Okah’s bail application today while he is to remain in custody.
Okah is facing a two-count charge of engaging in terrorist activity against Nigeria
He is also charged with conspiring with others to engage in terrorist activity as well as delivering, placing and detonating explosive devices which caused the death and injury of some people in Abuja on October 1.