Okah’s Trial: Court Orders Prosecution To Furnish Defence With Brief

charles_okahThe Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Federal Government to furnish Mr Charles Okah, Obi Nwabueze and their counsels all the necessary documents they intend to tender during their trial for the 2010 Independence Day bombing.

The order issued on Monday would allow the defence study the documents and decide which they would object to or otherwise.

According to the trial judge, Justice Kolawole, the order was in line with the new practice direction aimed at fast-tracking trials.

The case has been adjourned to 19 May for continuation of trial.

Mr Charles Okah and his co-accused, Obi Nwabueze are accused of complicity in the 2010 Independence Day bombing in Abuja which killed at least 10 persons and injured 10 others.

Independence Day Bombing: Henry Okah Jailed For 24 Years

Former member of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah was on Tuesday jailed for 24 years by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

The court sentenced the MEND   leader to a total of 34 years imprisonment, but he will spend only 24 years as the sentence will run concurrently.

According to our correspondent, Betty Dibia, who was in the court, Mr Okah was found guilty on 13 counts and was sentenced to 12 years,

The first six counts were relating to the Warri bombing of 15th March, 2010.

He was also sentenced to 12 years on another six count charge for the October 1st 2010 bombing in Abuja, while he was sentenced to 10 years for MEND’s threat to deal with South Africans.

The embattled leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah

“Effectively, the accused (Mr Okah) is therefore sentenced to 24 years imprisonment,” Judge Neels Claassen said as he handed down sentence.

On 21 January, Mr Okah was found guilty on 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

The charges related to two car bombs in Abuja, Nigeria, in which 12 people were killed and 36 injured on 1 October 2010, the anniversary of the country’s independence.

The second bombing took place in Warri on 15 March 2010 at a post amnesty dialogue meeting. One person was killed and 11 seriously injured.

In both bombings, two car bombs went off minutes apart in both places. The cars were parked in close proximity to each other.

Judge Claassen sentenced Okah to 12 years imprisonment for each of the bombings and 10 years for the threats made to the South African government after his arrest in October 2010.

The 10 years would run concurrently with the 24 years.

In January, during judgment, Judge Claassen said the State had proved Mr Okah’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and his failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.

Mr Okah has denied any involvement, claiming the charges against him were politically motivated.

Rebel leader

Born in 1965, Mr Okah came into the spotlight as a key leader of MEND, one of the armed groups involved in the struggle for resource control in the region

The fourth son of a naval officer, Okah was said to be enraged by the living conditions of the Niger delta people and subsequently used his experience as a gun salesman and a merchant navy mariner to further his self-chosen career as a rebel leader.

It will be recalled that MEND, which started its activities in 2006, has claimed responsibility for several attacks on oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, often through the use of sabotage, guerilla warfare or kidnapping of foreign oil workers.

According to the group their main goal is to destabilize the foreign oil interest in the Niger Delta, who they claim have been exploiting the local populace.

Okah organized and funded rebel groups and at a point, he relocated to South Africa, where he continued with his armed struggle.

In September 2007, Okah was arrested in Angola while trying to buy equipment and arms for use in the Niger Delta.

He was deported to Nigeria in February 2008 , detained in solitary confinement and charged with 62-counts of treason, terrorism and  illegal possession of arms and firearms.

That trial, which began in April 2008, was held in private, because the government then headed by late President Umaru Yar’Adua said it would “jeopardize national security”.

But his lawyer, Mr Femi Falana insisted that a closed trial was an infringement of his rights and asked a superior court to overturn the decision.

In July 2009, Okah’s lawyer announced that he had accepted the amnesty, which had been offered by the Nigerian government to all the Niger Delta rebels willing to lay down their arms, in a bid to end attacks on the oil industry.

On the 13th of July,2009, Justice  Mohammed Liman, the judge handling the controversial trial discharged Okah following a Nolle Prosequi entered  by the then  Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Michael Aondoakaa.

After he was set freed by the court he went back to South Africa, where he was living with his family and he was there till he was re-arrested for the Independence Day bombing in 2010.

Even though the alleged crimes occurred on Nigeria’s soil, and there is an extradition treaty between both countries, the Nigerian government refused to seek his extradition.

With this sentence, Nigerian history would record Henry Okah as the first Niger Delta militant leader to be convicted on charges of terrorism.

Henry Okah’s Prison Sentence Postponed

Reprieve seems to have come the way of terror convict, Henry Okah, as a South Africa court has agreed to postpone his sentencing.

The trial judge, Justice Neels Claassen fixed February the 28th, 1st of March or the 4th of March for his sentencing.

Counsel to Mr. Okah, Mr. Lucky Multulanla told the trial judge, on Thursday that his client wishes to call at least five witnesses in and outside Nigeria to testify for the mitigation of the convict’s sentence in the interest of the Niger Delta community.

The court had at its last sitting on January 21 found Mr.  Okah guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorism by masterminding two car bomb attacks in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on the 1st of October , 2010.

But the court had reserved the pronouncement of its sentence till yesterday (Thursday).

Mr Okah likened his trial to a lynch mob because efforts he made to defend himself were allegedly frustrated by the Nigerian government just as state counsel, Mr. Shaun Abraham dismissed this, saying that Mr. Okah was given every opportunity to defend himself but failed on the 21st of this month.

Henry Okah’s Lawyers Seek Postponement Of His Sentencing

Counsel to the embattled leader of the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Mr. Henry Okah, have asked for a postponement of his sentencing by the Johannesburg High Court.

The embattled leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah, who has been convicted on 13 counts of terrorist activities

The lawyers argued that the postponement was necessary to enable them get more witnesses.

On the 21st of January, the presiding judge, Justice Neels Claassen, found Mr. Okah guilty of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device and said the state proved Okah was guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr. Claassen said Okah’s failure to testify meant evidence against him remained uncontested.

The sentence which could be a life jail was expected to be made on January 31st or February 1st.

The judge, however, gave Okah room for mitigation.

Mr. Okah likened his trial to a lynch mob because efforts he made to defend himself were allegedly frustrated by the Nigerian government just as state counsel, Mr. Shaun Abraham, dismissed this saying that Okah was given every opportunity to defend himself but failed.

Twelve people were killed and 36 injured in the car bombs on the first of October 2010, during Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary. Mr. Okah was arrested in Johannesburg the following day.

He was also found guilty on terrorism charges relating to two explosions in March 2010 in Warri, Delta State.

I still have faith in South African justice system – Okah

The embattled leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah, who has been convicted on 13 counts of terrorist activities, said on Thursday he has not lost faith in the South African justice system.

The embattled leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah, who has been convicted on 13 counts of terrorist activities

“I do not think anything funny has happened…. I just believe that the judge arrived at his conclusion based on the information that was placed before him,” he said.

“I still haven’t lost faith in the South African justice system, so I will continue to test it.”

He was speaking to journalists in the High Court in Johannesburg before the start of sentencing procedures.

On January 21, Judge Neels Claassen found Mr Okah guilty of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

He said the State had proved Mr Okah’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge said Mr Okah’s failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.

Twelve people were killed and 36 injured in two car bombs in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja on October 1, 2010 during the celebration of the anniversary of the Nigeria’s independence.

Mr Okah was arrested in Johannesburg the next day.

He was also found guilty on terrorism charges relating to two explosions in March 2010 in Warri, Delta State.

Judge Claassen found no evidence that the suspect did not head MEND which claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Mr Okah denied any involvement in the blasts and said the charges against him were politically motivated.

South Africa tried him as part of its international obligation, as the Nigerian authorities had not applied for his extradition, according to the prosecution.

Security at the Johannesburg court was increased on Thursday. The main street outside the court was closed to traffic and police officers were stationed on street corners. About 12 police officers and four security guards were outside the courtroom on the second floor. Inside the court about 16 heavily-armed officers monitored proceedings.

Wearing a blue, red and white striped shirt, and jeans, Mr Okah sat calmly in the dock waiting for proceedings to start.

“I have been through worse…. I’m prepared for these kinds of things. This is Africa,” he told reporters.

His wife, wearing sunglasses, sat in the public gallery, with family and friends.

We Have Nothing To Do With Henry Okah’s Conviction – FG

The Federal Government has dissociated itself from the conviction of Henry Okah, the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) by a South African court following threats by the group to resume hostilities.

The government insisted that this is not the time to threaten Nigeria but to stand up in unity for it.

The embattled leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah, who was recently convicted in South Africa for masterminding the 2010 Independence Day bombing in Abuja.

MEND had allegedly threatened to renew attacks and evolve fresh dimensions to it following the conviction of its leader in South Africa.

In a statement dated January 23, 2013 and signed by one Comrade Azizi, MEND insisted that the conviction of Mr Okah by the South African Court on all 13-count charge of involvement in the 2010 Independence Day bombing in Abuja which killed many people amounted to a betrayal.

It said Nigerians would feel its impact when it eventually commences attacks which it disclosed will not be restricted to the Niger Delta region.
Reacting to this threat, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku insisted that Mr Okah was tried in South Africa under due process of the law of the country.

He said it was very shocking that any Nigerian or group would take up arms against Nigeria on account of that conviction.

The minister said on the contrary, expectation was that all citizens should show higher level of patriotism. He argued that, “We should not live in a nation where we should abandon the law.”

Mr Maku noted that citizens should understand that the country offers the best opportunity to live in and urged for support for the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

 

 

2010 Independence Day Bombing: Court Finds Okah Guilty

A Johannesburg Magistrate court in South African found Henry Okah guilty of terrorism charges levelled against him by the federal government of Nigeria.

The sentence includes a life jail term. The sentence will be carried out on January 31st or February 1st. The judge however gave Okah room for mitigation.

Mr Okah is accused of masterminding two car bombings in Abuja on October 1 in 2010.

12 people were killed and 36 were injured. He was arrested in Johannesburg the following day.

The Presiding Judge Neels Claassen, said Mr Okah was found guilty on 13 counts ranging from conspiracy to commit terrorism to detonating explosives.

“I have come to the conclusion that the State proved beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused,” Judge Neels Claassen said when handing down judgment.

“The evidence of all the accomplices that worked with him was not contradicted… I found that (Okah is the) leader, planner, funder, supplier… of car bombs used in Warri in March 2010 and on October 1, 2010.”

Claassen said Okah’s failure to testify meant evidence against him remained uncontested.

Okah was allegedly the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) that claimed responsibility for the blasts.

He was charged with engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, who was first to give evidence at the opening of Okah’s trial said Okah was a “key figure in the Niger Delta struggle and the militants had a lot of respect for him”.

Okah denied involvement in the attacks and also denies being the leader of the group.

State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said justice had been done. The ruling showed South African and foreign law enforcement agencies could work together.

“There is no safe haven in South Africa.”

Abrahams said legislation provided for a minimum sentence of life imprisonment for Okah’s crimes.

After the guilty finding, Okah was taken to the court holding cells under heavy police guard.

Meanwhile, Lagos based lawyer, Festus Keyamo has argued that the conviction of Henry Okah is flawed.

Explaining the flaws, Mr Keyamo stated that the convict was not given adequate facility and opportunity to defend himself.

The lawyer claimed he had written a letter to the Attorney-General of the Federation seeking approval for witnesses to the case, including some government officials and it was approved only two weeks ago.

“But unfortunately without giving Henry Okah’s counsel in South Africa adequate time and facilities to follow the directives, the South African court foreclosed this opportunity to call witnesses and rushed to convict him.”

Mr Keyamo also said the terrorism charges are politically motivated and legally incorrect.

Independence Day bombing: Henry Okah’s trial begins in South Africa

The trial of the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) and alleged mastermind of the October 1, 2010 bombing in Abuja, Mr Henry Okah, began on Monday, in South Africa.

Mr Okah is facing a 15-count charge for the twin bomb blast that killed more than 10 people in the nation’s capital during the elaborate celebration of the nation’s 50th independence anniversary, on October 1, 2010.

His initial 5-count charge was on Monday, amended to 15, as the trial proceeding commenced amid tight security. The streets adjourning the courts in Johannesburg, were reportedly cordoned off as thorough screening was carried out within the court premises.

Briefing the new presiding judge, the lead prosecuting counsel, Shaun Abrahams revealed that he has formal confirmation from Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice that there would be no extradition request for the defendant.

He also revealed a pledge by the Federal Government to fully cooperate with the trial.

First to be called to the witness stand by the prosecutor was the Minister for the Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe, referred to as Witness 17.

He gave the  historical perspective of the agitation of the Niger Delta people leading to the amnesty programme for militants in the region.

He identified the amnesty documents relating to the defendant, which Mr Okah who was also present in court, said he has no problem with.

Mr Orubebe was further questioned on his visits and dealings with the defendant which ranged from business to issues on the Niger Delta.

The Minister however denied having anything to do with a document on a quotation for the purchase of arms by Mr Okah.

The Judge adjourned the case till Tuesday, owing to the fact that the day was far gone and the inadequate time for the defence counsel, Lucky Mahlala, to cross examine the witness.

With regard to Mr Okah’s bail application, his counsel expressed the hope to get the response of the prosecution by midweek before it can be taken further.

This trial is said to be expected to last about 18months as more than 100 witnesses are expected from both sides collectively.

October 1 bombing: Absence of witness forces judge to adjourn

It was not a good day for one of the suspects of the October 1, 2010 bombing in Abuja.  Edmund Ebiware who apparently wanted an expeditious trial only to be greeted with the news of long adjournment at the instance of the prosecution who sought for more time to enable him produce his last witness.

The prosecutor told the court that his last witness is presently not in the country and as such would need more time to present him.

An excuse that got the suspect into an emotional mood as he was been taken away by prison warders out of the courtroom.

Earlier, the fifth prosecution witness who is a Principal Technical Officer with the State Security Service, Wasiu Agbaje testified that he had extracted the contents of the accused person phone shortly after he was arrested.

According to him two incriminating messages was discovered in one of the suspect’s phones. One in is his outbox message and the other in his sent box which linked him to the Independence Day bombing.

The witness said he used forensic suite software to extract the messages which he told the court he printed and passed to the service special investigative panel.

The printed text messages were later tendered as evidence by the prosecutor, Alex Iziyon (SAN), as evidence. Mr Iziyon said he sought for a long adjournment in the interest of justice.

The case has now been adjourned to October 3 and 9 for continuation of trial.

 

Jonathan denies allegations that he masterminded Independence Day bombings

President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday denied allegations brought against him by MEND leader, Henry Okah, that he and his aides masterminded two bombings in 2010 in order to implicate some leaders of Northern Nigeria.

The Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan condemns the on-going attempt by a segment of the military in Guinea- Bissau

Mr. Okah is the detained leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), blamed for the 2010 Independence Day bomb that killed at least 10 people with many more injured.

Mr. Okah’s allegations are contained in an affidavit he swore to in South Africa, where he is facing trial for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jonathan has denied the allegation in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, describing the allegations as “false in their entirety and without any factual foundation.”

“As the case of Mr. Okah’s involvement in the plotting and execution of terrorist attacks in Nigeria is already before a court of competent jurisdiction in South Africa, the Presidency does not intend to say anymore on the matter for now and will, in accordance with due process and international law, make a full representation on the matter to the court when the trial opens,” the statement said.

Mr. Okah also stated in the affidavit that early in 2010, Diezani Allison-Madueke called him over 20 times to solicit his input into getting the portfolio of Petroleum Resources Minister, to which Mr. Jonathan subsequently appointed her.

In what seemed to be a reference to that point, the presidency advised the Nigerian media “to respect the sanctity of the legal and judicial processes in this matter and avoid becoming willing tools in the hands of Mr. Okah and his agents in an entirely diversionary trial by the media aimed only at falsely impugning the character and integrity of the President and officials of his administration.”

Court stalls trial of Independence Day bombing suspects

Okah (in Cuffs) being led to the court room by a security official

 The trial of Charles Okah, the brother of the acclaimed leader of Niger Delta militants and two others for the Independence Day bombing in 2010, was today stalled at the Federal High Court following a request for stay of proceedings pending their appeal.
Justice Kolawole adjourned the case for mention to the 28th of May after granting the application by the counsel to Mr. Okah and asking the court to stay proceedings pending the determination of an appeal before the appellate court

Despite opposition by the prosecutor, Justice Gabriel Kolowale ruled that while the court is mindful of the need to quickly dispense with cases, the court must also ensure that the right to appeal any decision by the accused person is respected.

He said there is no doubt to the veracity of the application before the court and therefore safer to adjourn the case until the appellate court decides the appeal.

Charles Okah arrived the court premises surrounded by prison officials and security operatives. And the family of one of the accused person said to have died on the 2nd of March 2012 were also in court to witness the proceedings.

The first issue considered by the court was the allegation of ill treatment of the accused persons in prison.

Lawyer to the accused persons told the court that the basic rights of Mr. Okah and his co-accused persons have been consistently violated even when they are still presumed innocent. He urged the court to grant them bail so that they can defend the charges against them from their homes. The prosecutor, Alex Izion, however opposed the bail application. Mr. Izion told the court that the application is spurious, unverified, malicious and highly speculative as there is no material proof on the allegations that the accused were maltreated. He urged the court to deny the prayers of the accused.

Justice Kolawole who sought clarifications from a prison warder on the enforcement of the rights of a prisoner subsequently made an order that the controller of prison be directed  to ensure that the accused persons get similar treatment as other inmates which include the right to exercise, worship and healthcare.

Counsel to Mr. Okah also requested for adjournment saying the accused person has an appeal which will be determined on the 23th April.

Again the prosecuting counsel opposed the application. Mr. Izion was of the opinion that commencing the hearing in the suit will have no harm on the case; therefore the court should not grant the application.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole therefore ordered stay of proceedings in the suit until the 28th of May.

The court also struck out the name of the deceased accused person from all the charges before the court. Leaving only three accused persons, Charles Okah, Obi Nwabueze, and Edmund Ebiware.