22 January 2013

Nigeria: Oct 1 Bombing - Okah Faces Life Imprisonment

A South African court has convicted Henry Okah of terrorism allegation made against him by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Henry Okah was alleged to have been the mastermind of the October 1, 2010, bombing which occurred at the Eagle Square, Abuja, during the Independence Day celebration.

Twelve people were reportedly killed while 36 were injured. Okah, the alleged leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta that claimed responsibility for the blasts, was arrested in Johannesburg the following day.

Okah was charged with engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

Among those who had testified at the S.A. Court was minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe. Okah denied involvement in the attacks, which were claimed by MEND militants, and also denied being the leader of the group.

Also testifying at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg was a witness who introduced himself as Stanley.

He said that Henry Okah gave instruction for the attacks in Abuja during the independence anniversary celebrations in 2010.

"I overheard Okah on numerous occasions discussing the purchase of weapons and in 2007 he contacted me asking me to pass a message to other leaders to do whatever it takes to get him out of jail. His wife Azuka also planned to kidnap the Angolan ambassador in Nigeria to bargain for his release," Stanley said.

He affirmed that, in January 2010, Okah instructed him to get an empty apartment he wanted to use to assemble car bombs.

He also explained what he knew about the bombing.

"A friend, Raphael Danfebo, told me Okah wanted to carry out the terror attack and gave instructions for two cars to be sent to Abuja on October. 1," Stanley said.

Conviction indictment on Nigeria's justice system - NBA

In a reaction yesterday, the Nigerian Bar Association called for the overhauling of Nigeria's justice system in order to speed up the dispensation of criminal cases in the country.

The chairman, NBA, Ikeja branch, Mr.Onyekachi Ubani, made the call while reacting to the conviction of Nigerian militant leader, Henry Okah, by a South African court for acts of terrorism.

Ubani told journalists that the major lesson Nigeria should learn from Okah's conviction was how to fast-track the dispensation of justice in its legal system.

He said the Nigeria justice system was slow, ineffective and inefficient to meet the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian people.

"Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, was jailed by a United Kingdom Court, whereas the crime was committed in Nigeria.

"Now, Okah has been convicted by a South African court for an offence also committed in Nigeria.

"This shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice system and it needs to be overhauled," Ubani said.

He said had Okah been charged for the offence in Nigeria, the matter would not have gotten to conviction stage by now.

"His brother and some other persons were arrested and arraigned for the same offence in Nigeria but the matter is still proceeding at a very slow pace," Ubani added.

He, however, said Okah has the right to appeal the judgement.

The NBA chairman also condemned the recent attack on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, by some suspected terrorists.

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