EMEKA MADUNAGU AND OLALEKAN ADETAYO
Detained leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Mr. Henry Okah, has insisted that President Goodluck Jonathan’s agents sponsored the March 15, 2010 and October 1, 2010 bombings in Warri and Abuja respectively for political considerations.
Okah made the allegation in a 194-paragraph affidavit deposed to in the South Gauteng High court in Johannesburg, South Africa in Case No: A570/10.
The allegations first came to light in an interview Okah granted Arabic satellite television, Aljazeera, in October 2010, weeks after the blast. In the interview, he blamed the attacks on Jonathan’s aides and claimed he was arrested for refusing to influence MEND, to retract its claim of responsibility.
Since then, Okah has been denied bail at least twice, with one at the South Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, where he is filing a new application for bail based on “new facts.”
The sworn affidavit was expected to be filed at the court between Tuesday and Wednesday as part of his renewed bid to secure bail, after spending more than one year in a South African jail.
His trial is set to start on October 1, 2012, exactly two years after a devastating blast that occurred less than a kilometre from the Eagle Square in Abuja, where Jonathan was attending Nigeria’s 50th anniversary.
He said the March 2010 car bomb blast (which he said occurred on March 14, 2010) at the Government House Annex, Warri, where South-South governors were attending an amnesty meeting, was intended to pave the way for the removal of Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, and his replacement by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe.
“It is my belief that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government working with a faction of MEND planned and executed the bombings of 14 March 2010 and 1 October 2010.
“The purpose of the 14 March 2010 bombing in my opinion was to create an atmosphere of insecurity in Niger Delta where President Goodluck Jonathan at that time, was fighting to oust the governor Mr. Emmanuel Uduaghan whom President Goodluck Jonathan intended to replace with his Minister for Niger Delta, Mr Godsday Orubebe,” Okah said in the affidavit.
On the Independence Day bombing, which claimed 10 lives, Okah said it was meant to sway public opinion against the North and some of its leaders who were planning to run against Jonathan in the April 2011 presidential election.
Okah has been held at the Johannesburg Prison since October 2, 2010, and is currently standing trial for alleged involvement in the October 1 bomb attack.
He alleged that Jonathan was upset when MEND claimed responsibility for the October 1 attack, against a plan to blame it on Northern elements.
He stated, “The bombings of 1 October 2010 were also intended by President Goodluck Jonathan government to create anti-North sentiments nationwide in order to galvanize support from other sections of Nigeria against other Northern candidates in the Presidential election.
“Under the arrangement, MEND, I believe, was not to claim responsibility for the bombings which the Nigerian government hoped to pin on General Babangida and other Northern elements. The claim of responsibility by the central group for a bombing, possibly carried out by a faction of MEND, punctured the plans of President Goodluck Jonathan to round up his opposition and hold them in custody until after the elections.”
He claimed to have come under pressure from some of Jonathan’s aides to get MEND to retract its claim of responsibility for the bombing, recalling that his “refusal to cooperate in this scheme resulted in President Goodluck Jonathan placing a call to President Jacob Zuma during the evening of 1 October 2010, requesting President Zuma’s personal assistance in securing my arrest. My noncooperation was interpreted by President Goodluck Jonathan as support for the Northern politicians.
“The South African Government’s direct interference was responsible for securing search and arrest warrants against me.”
Okah also claimed to have influenced Jonathan’s appointment of Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke as minister of petroleum resources, at the prompting of a Jonathan aide. He alleged that between April 4 and 5, 2010, he received approximately 20 calls from Alison-Madueke, asking him to “put in a good word for her” with Jonathan to consider her for the position.
He also countered evidence and public statements by the SSS detailing his alleged involvement in the October 1 blast. Okah provided telephone numbers used by Jonathan’s aides and Alison-Madueke in reaching him.
The Presidency has, however, described Okah’s allegations as “false.”
In a statement by presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, the Presidency said the allegations were without any factual foundation and promised that government would full representation in court once the trial commenced fully.
The statement reads, “The attention of the Presidency has been drawn to reports in the media of allegations made against President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in an affidavit said to have been sworn to by Mr. Henry Okah, who is facing trial in South Africa for his involvement in terrorist acts against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The Presidency categorically affirms that these allegations are false in their entirety and without any factual foundation.
“As the case of Mr. Okah’s involvement in the plotting and execution of terrorist attacks in Nigeria is already before a court of competent jurisdiction in South Africa, the Presidency does not intend to say anymore on the matter for now and will, in accordance with due process and international law, make a full representation on the matter to the court when the trial opens.
“The Presidency also advises the Nigerian media to respect the sanctity of the legal and judicial processes in this matter and avoid becoming willing tools in the hands of Mr. Okah and his agents in an entirely diversionary trial by the media aimed only at falsely impugning the character and integrity of the President and officials of his administration.”