Henry Okah has denied that he is the leader of MEND, the militant group which claimed responsibility for the October 1st dual bombings in which eight people were killed in Abuja.
Mr. Okah was speaking when being questioned by Prosecution lawyer, Shaun Abrahams, at his bail application hearing. When shown documents seized from his house on October 2, in which his wife and "a representative of the Okah family" wrote to Amnesty International calling him the leader of MEND, Mr Okah said "I am confused because I don't know where this is coming from. I don't accept that this letter is from my wife."
"The president has just made it clear that Tompolo is the leader of MEND," he said. "I assume the leader of MEND is Tompolo. There are lots of commanders."
When asked by the prosecution who the overall leader of MEND is, he replied, "I have no knowledge of that."
However, after he was shown an email sent by his wife to international media organisations inviting them to a rally, Mr. Okah did a backtrack. "There are 30 international email addresses in here," said Mr Abrahams. "Your wife says you are the leader of MEND. You are notifying the world that you are the leader of MEND, yet you are in court today saying you are not."
But Mr. Okah replied, "The media describes me as leader of MEND. For clarity, that's why I think she did it...that's the only way the media will know what she's talking about."
Okah's ‘purchase list'
As his cross examination continued, Mr. Okah read from a notebook in which some entries were made in his own writing. When some of the entries were read to him, however, Mr. Okah said he did not remember what they meant, as "it was a long time ago." An entry, dated September 19, two weeks before the bombings, read: "we will fight to the finish." Mr. Okah denied that it had anything to do with the Niger Delta or MEND.
Also written in the notebook were the following items: "Boats, Micro-Uzzi, Binoculars, Jungle Boots, 40mm cannon, Raincoats, Surface to Air Missiles, Grenade Launchers, Land Mines, Assault Machine Guns." The prosecution accused him of making the list because he "wanted to source them for the militants in the Niger Delta region."
However, Mr. Okah insisted that they were notes made when he was reading war books "for intellectual purposes". "I'm someday planning to write a book on military tactics," he said.
Judge Hein Louw described the proceedings as worrying, and said to Mr. Okah; "Why write down this list...it seems to me a purchase list...if you were in my position, would this not look incriminating to you?"
‘Girlfriends can supply weapons'
Another document seized from Mr Okah's home was said to be a letter from militant leader, Asari Dokubo, who claimed to have bought N6.8 million worth of arms and paid in advance. Mr. Okah however told prosecution that, "Asari Dokubo is one of the numerous thugs who is acting on behalf of the Nigerian government to destroy my image...I really don't understand why anyone should consider the rantings (sic) of an ant."
When prosecution pointed out that an invoice from a Chinese company seized from his home had some of the items listed in his diaries, Mr Okah maintained that the Niger Delta Minister, Godsway Orubebe, was instrumental to that quotation getting into his possession. "Nigeria is so corrupt that even minister's girlfriends can supply weapons," he said. "Everybody supplies weapons."
Throughout his time on the witness stand, Mr. Okah maintained that the Nigerian government was trying to set him up, had bribed journalists, and that "even the Attorney-General was a liar" for suggesting he had links with Hezbollah. When asked by Mr. Abrahams to be specific in his testimony, Mr Okah replied that; "I am trying desperately to stop embarrassing the Nigerian government."
To which Mr. Abrahams replied: "Mr. Okah, the only person you are embarrassing is yourself."
On statements by prosecution that his brother, Charles, who was arrested at the weekend, sent MEND's latest message of a bomb attack, Mr. Okah said; "if you are able to prove that he sent the email, then he should be held responsible for that."
He also denied knowing Chima Orlu or Ben Jesse, the men identified by the Nigerian government as perpetrators of the October 1 bombings. He told the court; "Can I advise you on the Nigerian government? In Nigeria it is so easy to fabricate evidence. There is not a shred of evidence to link me to those bombings."
Mr. Okah's bail application continues tomorrow Wednesday October 20.