A South African court has found Henry Okah guilty of terrorism allegation made against him by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Henry Okah was alleged to be the brain behind the October 1, 2010 bombing which occurred at Eagle Square, Abuja during the Independence Day celebration.
Twelve people were reportedly killed and 36 others injured. Okah, the alleged leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which claimed responsibility for the blasts was arrested in Johannesburg the next day. He was subsequently charged with engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing and detonating an explosive device.
Okah denied involvements in the attack as well as denied being the leader of MEND, who claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Among those who testified at the South African court was the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe. Also testifying was a witness who simply introduced himself as Stanley.
He said that Henry Okah gave instruction for the attacks in Abuja during the independence anniversary celebrations in 2010.
“I overheard Okah on numerous occasions discussing the purchase of weapons and in 2007 he contacted me asking me to pass a message to other leaders to do whatever it takes to get him out of jail. His wife Azuka also planned to kidnap the Angolan ambassador in Nigeria to bargain for his release,” Stanley said.
He affirmed that, in January 2010, Okah instructed him to get an empty apartment he wanted to use to assemble car bombs.
He also explained what he knew about the bombing.
“A friend, Raphael Danfebo, told me Okah wanted to carry out the terror attack and gave instructions for two cars to be sent to Abuja on October. 1,” Stanley said.
Meanwhile, in a reaction to the conviction, the Nigerian Bar Association has called the ruling an indictment on Nigeria’s justice system and called for its overhauling to enable speedy disposition of criminal cases in the country.
The Chairman, Ikeja branch of the NBA who made this statement told journalists that Nigeria ought to learn from Okah’s conviction how to fast track the dispensation of justice in its legal system.
He said the Nigerian justice system was slow, inefficient and fell far short of the wishes and aspirations of the people.
“Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, was jailed by a United Kingdom Court, whereas the crime was committed in Nigeria.
“Now, Okah has been convicted by a South African court for an offence also committed in Nigeria.
“This shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice system and it needs to be overhauled,” Ubani said.
He said if Okah had been charged in Nigeria, the case would not have gotten to the stage of conviction by now.
“His brother and some other persons were arrested and arraigned for the same offence in Nigeria but the matter is still proceeding at a very slow pace,” Ubani added.
He, however, said Okah has the right to appeal the judgement.
The NBA chairman also condemned the recent attack on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, by some suspected terrorists.