President 'behind Okah's arrest'

THE Nigerian minister who met with terror accused Henry Okah before the 2010 bombings did so in his personal capacity and was not sent by President Goodluck Jonathan or any government official, the Johannesburg High Court heard yesterday.

Lawyers for Okah, who is facing a charge of engaging in terrorist activities, insisted that Okah's arrest was politically motivated and that President Jonathan was behind the move.

Okah is accused of being behind the 2010 Independence Day bombings in Abuja, Nigeria, that killed eight people and left scores others injured.

It is alleged that Okah grew increasingly dissatisfied with amnesty conditions that had been entered into in 2009 by the government and all rebel factions operating in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

He was allegedly the leader of a rebel militant organisation called Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claimed responsibility for the Abuja bombings.

Nigeria's Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Orubebe, yesterday told the court that he visited Okah in South Africa just before the attacks and wanted him to work with the Nigerian government.

While Orubebe insists the visit was personal, Okah says it was not.

Okah's lawyer, Lucky Maunatlala, said there were records proving that Jonathan asked Orubebe to come and speak to Okah.

Orubebe said he came to speak to Okah because he was concerned that Okah would engage in future struggle and wanted to talk peace with him.

"After the bombings I called Okah, wanting to know if he was responsible, and he declined to comment. "He just laughed," said Orubebe.

The state intends to call 261 witnesses, 150 of whom will be from Nigeria.

Their travel and accommodation costs will be paid for by the South African government after Nigeria said it did not want Okah to be tried in that country. The trial continues. -

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