News / Africa

Suspect in Nigeria Blast Disowned by Niger Delta Militants

In this undated file photo provided by the militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, militant leader Henry Okah poses for a photo. The ex-leader of a militant group that claimed responsibility for a dual car bombing that killed 12 i
In this undated file photo provided by the militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, militant leader Henry Okah poses for a photo. The ex-leader of a militant group that claimed responsibility for a dual car bombing that killed 12 i
TEXT SIZE - +

Authorities in Nigeria say the main suspect in the bombing deaths of 12 people during last Friday's independence day celebrations is former Niger Delta militant Henry Okah. 

Individual action

Nigerian security services say there is a clear difference between Henry Okah's individual actions and the group to which he once belonged - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

State Security Services spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar says nine suspects under arrest are associated with Okah, not the broader MEND movement. "It think we all have to be careful.  I have mentioned here that we have arrested nine suspects who have direct links to Henry Okah.  I never mentioned MEND.  I never mentioned an organization.  I said to the incident and some unscrupulous prominent Nigerians," Ogar said.

Denies involvement

Okah is in a South African jail, charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act in connection with last Friday's bombing in Abuja.  Okah lawyer Peter Krause denies his client's involvement in the attack and has asked to see the affidavit that led to his arrest, saying he doubts it came from Nigerian authorities.

"Mr. Okah obviously expects the entire arrest and his prosecution in South Africa to be initiated by the Nigerian authorities," Krause said. "But we do not suspect at this stage that the affidavits upon which the arrest warrant and the search and seizure warrants were obtained emanated from Nigeria."

Okah was released from Nigerian custody just last year as part of a Niger Delta amnesty program.  So how did he get to be the main suspect in the independence day bombing?

Conflict with MEND leadership

Niger Delta student leader Chris Onodjacha is the National Association of Nigerian Students president.  He says the problems between Okah and MEND began when Okah refused to accept last year's amnesty.

"Others who accepted the amnesty, they were shown on electronic media.  But in the case of Henry Okah, there was nothing like that," Onodjacha said. "Since he did not accept the amnesty, the contents of the amnesty would not have an affect on him because he did not append his signature."

Onodjacha says Okah was determined to continue to fight the federal government against the wishes of MEND leaders, most of whom accepted the amnesty. "If a man is not to be pursuing the beliefs and ideologies of a particular body, those who are in the body of course can get up to say, no, these are not our ideologies, these are not our beliefs.  These are not part of our modus operandi.  We therefore see this person as a non-member," he said. "I think this is what has happened in the case of the MEND leaders and Henry Okah."

Because of that falling out with Okah, MEND commander Asari Dokubo says Friday's bombing should not be associated with the people of the Niger Delta. "I want to say that the action that took place is despicable.  It is heinous.  And it is condemnable," he said. "We the people represented by all the people of Niger Delta we have condemned this action."

Dokubo's spokesman Rex Anighoro says Okah bought the group weapons, but was never part of its leadership.

"Henry Okah has never been the head of MEND.  He was only a part of MEND to the extent that he was an arms dealer," Anighoro said. "He knew very well those who were in the struggle.  He supplied them arms."

Anighoro says Okah's conflict with MEND leadership was not only about the amnesty.  He says there was also the issue of criminality. "Henry Okah, due to his influence, criminalized the struggle, brought certain elements of money making, money taking.  Our organization has always viewed him as one who was never really for the struggle, but one who used his influence wrongly to bring down the morality of the struggle," he said.

President Goodluck Jonathan says the attack attributed to Okah was sponsored by unpatriotic elements within Nigeria.  That investigation has become political with the questioning of former military leader Ibrahim Babangida's presidential campaign director.

The retired general is running against President Jonathan in next year's election.  State-run television says Babangida campaign director Raymond Dokpesi was questioned about text messages found on the phone of one of the suspects which referred to a monetary payment.

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

Why Europe and the US may be "whistling past the graveyard?" More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid