Abuja bombings: Henry Okah instructed bomb detonation, says prosecutor

Henry Okah
Henry Okah

Henry Okah, the ex-militant leader arrested after Nigeria’s deadly independence day blasts, gave the directive for the twin car bombs to be detonated, South African prosecutors said Monday.

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

Prosecutors said Monday that investigations indicated the blasts were caused by sacks of dynamite detonated by cell phone under orders from Okah.

“Investigations have… revealed that you are one of the persons who gave the directive for the explosives to be detonated,” prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said while cross-examining Okah at his bail hearing.

“The available evidence clearly indicates you insofar as modus operandi is concerned and insofar as giving the instructions are concerned.”

Okah, who denies involvement in the attacks, accused the Nigerian government of fabricating evidence against him.

“The Nigerian government fabricates evidence. It’s so easy to create witnesses,” he said.

“There is absolutely not a shred of evidence.”

Okah, who has permanent residence in South Africa, has been in custody in Johannesburg since his arrest.

His bail hearing began last week and is set to continue Wednesday.

The hearing has returned repeatedly to evidence seized from Okah’s house when police arrested him, including a quotation for weapons from a Chinese arms dealer and diaries that prosecutors say tie Okah to the armed conflict in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region.

Portions of the diaries read aloud in court contained lists of weapons, including anti-tank mines, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns.

Okah testified in court that studying guerrilla warfare is a passion of his and that the lists reflected an “intellectual interest”.

But after the prosecution concluded its cross-examination, magistrate judge Hein Louw called the weapons inventory “something that worries me”.

“It seems to be a purchase list from my point of view,” he said.

“If you were in my position would this not seem very incriminating to you?” he asked Okah.

Okah said the weapons were not of a type used in the Delta, and called the lists “suspicious, but not incriminating”.

Okah’s brother Charles was arrested Saturday in Lagos. A security source familiar with the case said bomb alerts sent by MEND had been traced to him.

MEND, which claims to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue in the impoverished Delta, last week has warned of another impending  attack in Abuja.

It said Henry Okah was a victim of “witch-hunting” by the Nigerian government, and threatened to carry out a fresh attack that would prove he was not involved.

Okah, who was arrested in Angola three years ago and transferred to Nigerian custody, has been living in South Africa since being released as part of an amnesty offered to militants in the Delta.