An indication to this was dropped by Okah’s lawyer who claimed the self exiled rebel leader had nothing to do with the bombing.
Agitating group, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta had claimed responsibility for the bombing, a claim that had been supported by series of press releases before and in the aftermath of the bombing in which the group claimed warnings were given but were ignored by the nation’s security..
But the President, Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday implicated a “small terrorist group” outside Nigeria as carrying out the independence day car bombings casting doubt on a claim of responsibility by a local rebel group.
The president had said in a statement on Friday that the twin car bombs that killed 12 people on independence celebration day were the handiwork of terrorists, but did not provide more detail on the group he was referring to or where they were located.
“It is a small terrorist group that resides outside Nigeria that was paid by some people within to perpetrate the dastardly act,” he said, according to a statement released by his press office on Sunday.
“We are on their trail and I promise Nigerians that the matter will be investigated to the last, and until everybody that is connected is brought to book, we will not rest. Government will no longer condone this culture of impunity.”
Statements in the name of Nigerian militant group MEND have claimed responsibility for the bombings, but Jonathan seemed to cast doubt on the author of the claim.
“There was a statement purported to have been written by MEND, but investigations show that members of MEND have said they don’t know about it,” the president said.
“Anybody who thinks that he can come under the cover of Niger Delta struggle to perpetrate violence and criminality, your time is over. We will no longer tolerate it, we will not accept it, the security agents are on their trail, and Nigerians will soon know the actors behind this evil.”
MEND — the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta — has claimed to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue.
It has carried out scores of attacks in the Niger Delta, the country’s main oil-producing region, but an amnesty deal offered by the government last year has greatly reduced the unrest.
The group, which has been seen as an umbrella organisation for criminal gangs and which police have called “amorphous”, had never before struck in the capital and rarely caused such a high number of casualties.
The attack also came ahead of elections due early next year.
A statement attributed to MEND sent to media outlets about an hour before the bombs went off warned of the attacks. Further statements claimed responsibility and said authorities were given a five-day advance warning.
The statements are always signed by Jomo Gbomo, believed to be an alias, and come from the same email address.
After the attacks, an ex-MEND leader, Henry Okah, was arrested in South Africa under the country’s terrorism and related offences laws. He has not yet been charged and is due to appear in court on Monday, his lawyer said.
He has denied any involvement in the car bombings, according to his lawyer, Piet du Plessis.
Okah was arrested in Angola three years ago and later transferred to Nigerian custody. He was released last year as part of the amnesty programme and has a home in South Africa.
Another statement in the name of MEND on Saturday said that “Okah has never been involved in any MEND operations but has always been blamed for every attack, which is strange to us”.
It also said MEND “regrets the avoidable loss of lives” and admonished authorities for failing to respond to its warnings.
Jonathan, who is from the Niger Delta, said earlier that claims those responsible were fighting for justice in the deeply impoverished region were a “camouflage”.
“It has nothing to do with the Niger Delta,” he told journalists after visiting victims of the blasts at an Abuja hospital on Saturday. “These are terrorists.”
Jonathan said that “people just use the name of MEND to camouflage criminality and terrorism”.