Convicted leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah on Tuesday appeared before a High Court in Pretoria, South Africa.
Looking a bit frail but in high spirits, Okah represented himself in court and challenged his prosecution and conviction.
He told the court that he is challenging his prosecution and conviction under South Africa’s anti-terror laws instead of under International Humanitarian Law under the International Criminal court Act.
He waded through a lot of legal documentation he speaks in an attempt to secure his freedom.
“I have the right to appear before this court, for this court to determine the lawfulness of my detention regardless of the final judgement,” Okah told the judge.
The judge eventually adjourned and reserved judgment for December 20, 2019.
Okah who is the plaintiff in this matter was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 24 years in jail for the 2010 bombings in Abuja and Warri which left about three people dead.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Islamabad Wednesday to meet new Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying he was hoping to “reset the relationship” with Pakistan which has worsened in recent months.
The conciliatory remarks by Pompeo, whose flight touched down just before 1:00 pm (0800 GMT), come days after Washington confirmed plans to cancel $300 million in military aid.
But the former CIA director, making his first visit as top US diplomat to the wayward ally whose support is vital in the Afghan conflict, said it was time to “turn the page”.
“So first stop — Pakistan,” he said, speaking on a plane ahead of his trip to South Asia.
“New leader there, wanted to get out there at the beginning of his time in an effort to reset the relationship between the two countries,” he said.
“There are a lot of challenges between our two nations, for sure, but we’re hopeful that with the new leadership that we can find common ground and we can begin to work on some of our shared problems together,” added Pompeo, who will be joined by General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network, which attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.
The White House believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban for ideological reasons, and also to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
It believes that a Pakistani crackdown on the militants could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.
Pompeo suggested that the election of Khan, who has vowed to seek better relations with the US, could provide a fresh impetus.
“Look, I think there is a new government this time, most of this took place long before the prime minister was in power and I hope we can turn the page and begin to make progress. But there are realistic expectations,” he said.
– Shared goal –
“I’m hopeful we can convince them to provide that assistance,” he continued, adding that in his conversations with Khan, they had agreed that peace in Afghanistan was a “shared goal”.
Pompeo also held out the possibility the military aid, part of a broader freeze announced in January could be restored under the right circumstances.
“We were providing these resources when it made sense for the United States because the partnership was in a place where the actions of our two countries made sense to do that,” he said. “If that arises again, I’m confident we’ll present to the president the rationale for that.”
Pompeo added he would also meet Pakistan’s powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa as well as his own counterpart, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
The latest remarks represent a shift in tone toward the nuclear-armed Muslim country and its new prime minister, a former playboy cricketer who came to office in July amid concerns he would remain tolerant of terror groups.
At the time of the vote, the US noted what it called “flaws” in Pakistan’s pre-electoral process but said it was nonetheless ready to work with the new government.
Pompeo also confirmed that Zalmay Khalilzad, a high-profile former US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad, and the United Nations, would be appointed to lead peace efforts in Afghanistan.
“Ambassador Khalilzad is going to join the State Department team to assist us in the reconciliation effort, so he will come on and be the State Department’s lead person for that purpose,” he said.
Pompeo headed for the US embassy after landing, in a motorcade of about 20 white Toyota Land Cruisers and a police escort.
He will travel on to India where he will be joined by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to meet their counterparts on a range of defense and trade issues.
The leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) Henry Okah has lost his bid to challenge his conviction in South Africa for two separate bombing incidents that occurred in Warri and Abuja in 2010.
In November 2017, Okah challenged the trial and conviction at the South African Constitutional Court, in a last-ditch attempt to walk away as a free man.
According to him, it was not fair, based on the dictates of the South African Criminal Procedures Act.
But in a unanimous judgment on the two cases on Thursday, Justice Edwin Cameron ruled that the trial under the Anti-terrorism Act of South Africa was in line with the country’s international obligations.
Okah was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in 2013 on 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device in 2010.
On appeal, the sentence was later reduced to 20-years in 2016.
The self-acclaimed leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah, Tuesday challenged his trial and conviction at the South African Constitutional Court, in a last-ditch attempt to walk away as a free man.
Mr Okah was sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment in 2013 after being convicted on 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device in 2010.
On appeal, the sentence was reduced to 20-years in 2016.
Today’s challenge at the Apex Court is claiming that his trial was not fair based on the dictates of the South African Criminal Procedures Act.
He is also questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-terrorism Act under which he was tried and convicted with regard to matters of jurisdiction.
A strategic security consultant, Max Gbanite, has challenged the Nigerian government to ensure it engages in dialogue with Niger Delta militants from a position of strength.
Mr Gbanite made the call on Monday while giving his opinion about the reports that the Federal Government had struck a deal with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), to end the crisis in the Niger Delta region.
“Whether you are going to negotiate, talk or discuss, any reasonable government must do that from a position of strength,” he said on Sunrise Daily.
Element Of Believability
While the security expert supported government’s dialogue with militants, he expressed concern at the position of the government in the matter.
“It is good to negotiate with MEND, it is good to negotiate with the Avengers, it is good to negotiate with the IPOB (and) it is good to even rehabilitate some Boko Haram people (after all they are all Nigerians), but the issue is what is government’s position?” Gbanite questioned.
While emphasizing the need for Nigerians to be aware of the progress, he insisted, “Until government comes out to say we have indeed negotiated and these are the outcomes of the negotiation, then there is believability”.
He challenged the spokesmen for the President, Mr Femi Adesina and Mr Shehu Garba, to “come out and say we are indeed (negotiating)”, insisting that “there must be an element of believability”.
Federal lawmakers are considering strategies that the Federal Government plans to implement in solving the menace of militants attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta region.
Some prominent members of the National Assembly made some suggestions while addressing Channels Television on Friday at the sideline of a legislative event in Lagos State, southwest Nigeria.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, observed that the activities of Niger Delta Avengers were not something to be tackled using the military approach.
He recommended that the brilliant idea of amnesty invented by the administration of late President Musa Yar’Adua should be properly considered.
Senator Ekweremadu said he figured out that government had relented on the amnesty programme, stressing that it should be taken seriously.
In another interview, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yusuf Lasun, said the 13% derivatives that were due to the Niger Delta, according to the constitution, were not well appropriated to the region.
He admitted that the southern region was thoroughly under-developed, urging the government to call peace to the region by dialoguing with the militants.
A group that calls itself the Niger Delta Avengers have carried out series of attacks on oil installations in the region, demanding for independence.
Barely one week after snubbing an invitation to dialogue with the Nigerian government, the Niger Delta Avengers militant group appears to have made a U-turn.
The group, through its spokesperson on Monday, have stated a number of conditions that it expects the Nigerian Government to meet before it would engage in any form of dialogue.
The group is requesting that the home countries of international oil companies operating in the Niger Delta must be involved in the peace process.
It also says the sincerity of the Nigerian government is paramount and would be a major factor that would determine if its call for dialogue would be successful or not.
The group has also warned the government, oil companies and their services firms not to carry out any repairs works and suspend the buying of crude oil from the Niger Delta region pending the creation of “the right atmosphere that will engender genuine dialogue”.
“The high command of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) is using this medium to restate that there are no new items to put on the table for dialogue, we only want a genuine attitude and conducive atmosphere that will make us commit to any proposed dialogue and last peace talk.
“We want the federal government to commit members states of the multinational Oil Corporations to commit independent mediators to this proposed dialogue; we believed that it is only such environment that will engender genuine dialogue that will be aimed at setting up a framework for achieving the short, medium and long term demands of the Niger Delta to de-escalating this conflict and bring about a lasting peace.
“We are warning this government of President Muhammadu Buhari not to turn the essence of genuine peace talk and dialogue to political jamboree that is prevailing now where all manner of social media agitators and criminals have being sponsored by the job seeking corrupt political class to save faces before the government of the day.”
The group concludes, “We want a peace with honour not a peace of our time.”
At the side line of an event in Lagos State, Professor Soyinka told Channels Television that unlike the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), he was yet to find out what exactly the militants actually wanted.
He noted that the only thing he had seen was the unjust destruction of the nation’s oil facilities.
The Niger Delta Avengers have claimed responsibility for recent attacks on infrastructure in the oil rich region, crippling oil production and rendering the energy sector paralytic.
The Nigerian President dropped a bombshell on Thursday as he flagged off his presidential campaign in Lagos.
President Goodluck Jonathan told the huge crowd of party leaders, supporters and various groups in attendance that the convicted leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah, was paid to assassinate him in 2010.
“The leader of MEND is one Okah, who is a South African prison.
“Okah is in a South African prison because 1st October 2010 when we were to celebrate our 50 years of independence, Okah was procured by some Nigerians to assassinate me and Okah bombed Abuja.
“The attempt was to assassinate me but intelligence investigation from the South African and Nigerian intelligence system roped him in that plan to assassinate me and they say MEND dumped Jonathan,” he said.
The President then asked his crowd of supporters, “Okah that wanted to assassinate Jonathan, will he support Jonathan?”
President Jonathan also accused some unidentified former leaders of not funding the military since the take-over of government by the military in 1983.
He equally replied his critics who accused him of not being firm, saying he cannot run a jungle government.
President Goodluck Jonathan has advised the APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, not to “place any stock on MEND’s alleged endorsement” of his presidential ambition as the people of Niger-Delta remain behind him.
This is contained in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, on Thursday.
The statement read; “We have noted with amusement, the vituperations against President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by the renegade faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) headed by the convicted terrorist, Henry Okah, in a statement issued to endorse the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
“While we thank all people of the Niger Delta, including the former militants whom MEND claims to represent who have already disassociated themselves from the statement issued by the faceless Jomo Gbomo and reaffirmed their unflinching support for President Jonathan’s re-election, we will like to state that the latest assault on the President by Henry Okah and his stooges did not come as a surprise to us at all.
“It was very much to be expected, coming as it did from an individual and group who have never hidden their vengeful personal animosity against the President and who have even gone to the extent of launching murderous assaults on venues at which the President was present on two occasions.
“It is most regrettable indeed that rather than show remorse for the terrorist acts against his fatherland for which he is now rightly serving a term of imprisonment in South Africa, Henry Okah continues to pursue a pointless personal vendetta against President Jonathan who continues to advance and protect the interests of the people of the Niger Delta which Okah and his group threatened with their misguided actions.
“The vituperations against President Jonathan in the MEND statement endorsing General Buhari are mischievous, baseless and deliberately styled to denigrate the good works of the President.
“It is well known that President Jonathan played a significant role in ending the militancy and insurgency in the Niger Delta.
“Under his watch, the destruction of oil facilities and the incessant kidnapping and killing of expatriates in the Niger Delta waterways have become a thing of the past.
“The attempt by Jomo Gbomo’s MEND to rewrite history by tarnishing the person of President Jonathan for selfish, pecuniary and political gains will amount to an exercise in futility.
“All patriotic and right-thinking Nigerians must consider an endorsement from a convicted criminal and his group who harbor evil intentions against the unity and progress of their country as a poisoned chalice.
“President Jonathan would never have accepted such an endorsement from terrorists and renegades.”
He concluded, “The President therefore advises General Buhari not to place any stock on his purported endorsement by the renegade faction of MEND which is led by a convicted and unrepentant terrorist with whom no leader who truly means well for Nigeria should be associated.”
In furtherance of the Presidential Amnesty Programme for ex-agitators in Nigeria’s oil-producing communities, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has initiated a partnership with key stakeholders to work out strategies for enduring peace in the region.
Speaking at a meeting with about 65 ex-agitators at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, the NDDC Managing Director, Barrister Bassey Dan-Abia, said that the quest for peace was in line with a critical component of the transformation agenda of the Federal Government, which underlines peace as a necessary condition for the success of its development programmes.
He noted that the possible development of the region could only be, if there was peace. Hence, the commission would not develop if they had to battle with kidnapping, sea piracy, pipeline vandalism and other similar vices.
He stressed that the time had come for all to sit down as one family, look inwards and open a new chapter for the development of the Niger Delta region.
Flanked by other board members, Dan-Abia applauded the ex-agitators for what he called their heroic efforts at drawing attention to the problems of the Niger Delta which informed the rapid development in the area.
The NDDC MD said that the commission had over the years been committed to so many programmes and projects, many of which were still on-going. Consequently, he said, the commission was now reviewing its strategy to ensure that on-going projects were completed on schedule as directed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“I salute you as the leaders of the struggle and thank you for your courage and patriotism, which has drawn attention to the challenges of the region. Indeed, we at NDDC appreciate all your sacrifices that have put the Niger Delta in the front burner”, he said.
Making his contribution at the meeting, the leader of the Niger Delta Salvation Force, Asari Dokubo, noted that that the NDDC was set up basically to bring rapid development to the Niger Delta.
He stated, however, that development was not only about roads and bridges but should also take into account the building of human capacity.
Thanking the NDDC for bringing the ex-agitators together to map out plans for peace and progress, he called on the commission to strengthen its programmes for empowerment and capacity building in agriculture and skill acquisition in the technical sector.
He said: “We must develop the economic capacity of our people. We should not allow our people to be beggars in the midst of plenty. We need to produce the Dantatas and Dangotes of the Niger Delta”, he
Asari Dokubo also warned northerners who were suggesting that the NDDC should be scrapped to perish the thought, as they would not succeed.
He was apparently referring to a position paper being canvassed by some northern delegates at the on-going National Conference, calling for the scrapping of the amnesty programme, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the NDDC.
Also speaking at the meeting, the leader of the Peace and Development Initiative, Mr. Reuben Wilson, a.k.a General Pastor, assured the NDDC of the support of the former agitators, noting that the meeting was recognition of their role in the liberation of the Niger Delta.