The militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is threatening new violence if its imprisoned leader Henry Okah is not tried in public. Okah was repatriated recently from Angola and charged by the Nigerian government with gunrunning and treasonable felony. He is being tried along with another militant leader Edward Atatah. MEND accuses the Nigerian government of violating Okah?s constitutional rights.
Sergeant Sankara calls himself leader of the Niger Delta Musketeers. He told VOA MEND would begin a new wave of attacks if Henry Okah is not tried in public.
?The Nigerian government has been so unfair to the Niger Delta people. Just recently our leader Henry Okah was arrested and we?ve been keeping quiet. And now they are saying what they called closed door trial, which is not too good for the people. And we are begging the Nigerian government to try Henry Okah in the public court so that people can go and listen to the hearing,? he said.
Sgt. Sankara said Okah is a Nigerian citizen and should be accorded his rights under the Nigerian constitution.
?You cannot be trying somebody for many charges and people are not hearing the trial. Even Saddam Hussein?s trial was an open trial. It is wrong; it is against the people?s mandate; it is against the laws of the land,? Sankara said.
He rejected any suggestion the militants might be losing the fight against the Nigerian government.
?We are not losing the war. We are only asking the government to try us with the case or else what will come out will not be good for anybody. If we don?t know the reasons and the proceedings of the court, then armed struggle will continue, the violence will continue, we come out in the struggles and we will demonstrate and we will take it by force,? he said.
Sankara said there has been a lull in the fight because the militants had been observing a ceasefire.
?We held a meeting with the leader of the Joint Revolutionary Council, and we said that there will be ceasefire so long as they don?t try Henry Okah secret. It was an agreement with the federal government that we should ceasefire and they will try Henry Okah in the public court. But now we are seeing that it is not going the way we thought. If the government does not bring Henry Okah in the public, we will come out in the streets again,? he said.
Sankara also went on a tirade against the governors of Rivers and Delta States whom he described as fraudulent.
?We know people that are genuine leaders that can serve the masses. Let us vote for those people who can hear our cry. We are under-developed. The same water we pollute into, the same water we drink from, the same water we bath from, and the same water we cook in. The situation has not changed. So we are crying and saying freedom must be achieved. And we have decided that Henry Okah must be tried in public,? Sankara said.