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

    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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.