News / Africa

Nigerian Supporters of Militant Leader say his Trial in South Africa Could Lead to Violence

Nigerian police have arrested nine suspects in connection with Friday's Independence Day bombings, which killed 12 people.  Nigerian intelligence services spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar says the suspects are connected to Henry Okah, who is said to have been a leader of Niger Delta militants.

Despite the government’s position, President Goodluck Jonathan says terrorists are using the struggles of the oil-rich Delta to camouflage their criminality -- a statement that exonerates Okah, according to Obum Cletus, a community leader in the Delta.

Okah is now under arrest in South Africa, where authorities are preparing to try him.  His supporters in the Niger Delta are warning of violence if his case does go to trial and he is convicted, and Cletus agrees, saying, “The days ahead are going to be very hot and there is going to be a flash point again in the Niger Delta.”

Soldiers are already being drafted to the area, he says.

“There is a lot of security beef-up in this region, every person is looking agitated and it is going to create a lot of suspicion….”

While the government has accused Okah of being the mastermind behind the terror attacks, Cletus says the people of the Delta see him differently.

“In the eye of the ordinary Niger Delta man, he is an associate of the freedom fighters in the Delta who is making his own private contributions to an organization that [agitates] for the development of the Niger Delta.”

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