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.

Be Cautious of Boko Haram’s Ceasefire Announcement, Army Chief Warns FG

The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sahaad has asked the Federal Government to treat the ceasefire declared by a faction of the Boko Haram Islamic sect with caution.

Admiral Sahaad, who spoke with reporters after a meeting in Abuja, also called on government to strengthen its security operations all over the country to avert further attacks by the group.

According to him, defence officials are excited on the declaration of ceasefire by members of the sect but, will not rest on its oars in ensuring the security of lives and properties in Nigeria.

Other security officials in the country also commended members of the group for the ceasefire.

A faction of the Boko Haram sect had on Monday declared ceasefire after allegedly holding talks with “officials of Borno State Government and leaders of thought from the state”.

“I am announcing this ceasefire with the approval and consent of the leader Sheikh Abubakar Shekau. We, therefore, call on all our members to stop all acts of violent immediately and await further directives,” said Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who introduced himself as the second in command to Mr Shekau.

He added that members of the Boko Haram should relate the ceasefire message to those “who are not aware or informed of today’s (Monday) development.”

Aziz explained: “The Boko Haram ceasefire is nationwide and commences immediately.”

He, however, denied the group’s involvement in the recent attacks and killings in Borno and other parts of the North, attributing the violence to the activities of armed robbers and other criminals that allegedly operate under the guise of Boko Haram.

While speaking on the violence that took over Maiduguri recently, Aziz distanced the group from such acts, pointing out that such attacks were politically-motivated by those seeking power in the Borno Emirate Council, government or otherwise, but not in line with the ideology of the group who are fighting for the cause of Allah.

He also urged the Joint Task Force (JTF) and other security agents to respond positively to the ceasefire.

He said: “Talks with government officials on how to surrender our arms and weapons has also commenced,” urging members of the sect to cooperate fully, by surrendering their arms and weapons to security agents.

The group had on 1 November 2012 said they were ready to ceasefire and listed some conditions. The conditions included the arrest and prosecution of a former governor of Borno State, and also that the dialogue must take place in Saudi Arabia.

They had also demanded that all their members, who were arrested and under the custody of security agencies be released immediately, just as their wives and children who were displaced following the crises should be rehabilitated into the society to allow room for dialogue with the Federal Government.

Nigerian mediators who were to represent the group in the dialogue with the Federal Government had included Shettima Ali Monguno, Muhammadu Buhari, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Ambassador Gaji Galtimari and Barrister Aisha Wakil and her husband.

Boko Haram, which in Hausa, loosely translates to mean “Western education is sinful”, said they were fighting to impose Islamic law on Nigeria.
At least 2,800 people have died in the North and Abuja since the group unleashed violence in 2009. Its most lethal attack killed at least 186 people in Kano in January 2012 in co-ordinated bombings and shootings.

The group has repeatedly struck churches during services, at Christmas and Easter killing scores of people. A bomb attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla on Abuja’s outskirts during a packed Christmas Mass in 2011 killed at least 37 people.

Last Easter Sunday, a bombing at a church compound in northern Kaduna during a service killed at least 36 people.

In other major attacks, gunmen killed at least 19 people in two attacks on Christian worshippers in the Nigerian city of Kano and in the northeastern town of Maiduguri on April 29, 2012.

In June, three gunmen sprayed bullets at the congregation of a church in Biu Town, in northeastern Borno State. In Jos, a Boko Haram suicide bomber drove a car to the entrance of the Christ Chosen Church and blew it up.

In the same month, a bomb attack in a church in Kaduna triggered a week of tit-for-tat violence that killed at least 90 people.

In October a suicide bomber drove a sport utility vehicle full of explosives into a Catholic church during morning mass, killing eight and wounding more than 100. The most recent attack on a church a few weeks ago was when suicide bombers struck the St. Andrew Military Protestant Church at the Jaji barracks in Kaduna State killing 11 people and wounding 30.

Stop violence now, Northern governors beg terrorists

The Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) has appealed to terrorist groups in the country to give peace a chance, saying reverting to attacks and other acts of violence after weeks of reprieve will not advance the course of peace.

The Chairman of the forum and Governor of Niger State, Babangida Muazu Aliyu in a statement noted that the senseless killing of innocent citizens in the last two weeks in various parts of the country has negated all efforts by the forum to restore peace to the country.

The forum while expressing serious concern at the renewed attacks on citizens, following the killing of 34 people in Yobe state noted that the overall implication of the rising wave of murders of Nigerians is that the security situation is worsening and that people are increasingly willing to resort to violence to settle their differences.

“We are worried that the security nightmare currently confronting the nation is capable of scaring off investors from Nigeria and putting the country on the travel advisory list of many countries around the world, thus dimming the country’s economic prospects,”

The forum however commended security agencies for the success recorded so far in the fight against terrorism in some parts of the north but urged them not to relent, saying the little success recorded should motivate them to do more.

Blast in Jalingo kills one, wounds 11

A bomb at an outdoor bar in Jalingo, Taraba State, North-Eastern Nigeria killed at least one person and wounded 11 on Thursday, a witness said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast in the town which has been occasionally targeted by Islamist sect Boko Haram.

“There was an explosion at a beer garden in the Dorawa area of the city,” said the Taraba State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Amos Olaoye, without providing further details.

The explosion occurred at Dorowa Ward off Barde Way in Jalingo at about 7.40 p.m.

A resident in the area, Sadiq Adamu said the blast shook the area in the late evening.

“I saw one dead body and three people were critically injured and taken off to hospital,” he said.

In April, a bomb blast struck the Inspector General of Police’s convoy in Jalingo, killing 11 people, although it has been largely quiet since then.

Dorowa is a popular drinking joint in Jalingo where both the local brew, “Burkutu” and “Ogogoro” as well as other assorted alcoholic drinks are sold.

Bars have sometimes been targeted by the Islamist extremists, though crime and local disputes have also led to such incidents.

The Taraba State House of Assembly had on Thursday impeached the deputy governor over allegations of corruption.

Mubi massacre: Students give Nyako 7 days to fish out killers

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has condemn the killings of over 26 students by yet to be identified gunmen at a private residential hostel at the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Adamawa State, North-East Nigeria and described the incident as callous, cruel and barbaric.

Students rushing out of their campuses in Mubi, Adamawa State, following Monday night massacre

The National President of NANS, Mohammed Dauda in a press statement in Jos, described the incident as unprecedented as the entire Nigerian students particularly the leadership of student union are still in shock and yet unable to phantom what could be the motive of the perpetrators.

While commiserating with families of the bereaved, the Polytechnic community and entire Nigerian students’ community, the students’ union body is demanding for an immediate probe into the circumstances surrounding the attack with a seven day ultimatum to the Adamawa State government to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

The statement added that there were insiders involved in the massacre of the students considering that the killings took place just immediately after the state government relaxed a curfew imposed on the town of Mubi few days before the attack.

A three days national mourning has been declared on all higher institutions in the country in honour of the memory of the dead students with an appeal to the security agents to urgently unravel the mystery.

Nyako condemns killing

Meanwhile, the Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako has condemned the Monday night murder of students of the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, as well as Adamawa State University and School of Health Technology.

Mr Nyako described the action as ungodly and shocking to the government and people of the state.

The governor, who on Wednesday spoke through his chief press secretary, Mai Jama’a Adamu, also condoled with the families of those who lost their lives in the attack, even as he assured that government was working closely with all security agencies in the state to ensure that the perpetrators of the heinous crime were brought to justice.

According to him, the state government had already set up a team led by the state head of service, Musa Kaibo, who are currently in Mubi to commiserate with the families of the deceased persons, and to get the information that will help the government to take necessary action concerning the incidence and to avoid future reoccurrence.

JTF kills senior Boko Haram member, arrest two others

The Joint Security Task Force (JTF) on Monday killed one person suspected to be a “top member of a terrorist group” and arrested two others during an early morning operation in Kano.

The JTF spokesman, Lt. Ikedichi Iweha, who confirmed the incident to journalists, said the operation was carried out in Hotoro area in Kano metropolis.

“During the early morning operation, one member of the terrorist group was killed and two other members were arrested.

“I have been hearing different names, I cannot confirm to you the identity of the suspects arrested yet, because I don’t have the nominal role of the terrorist group,” he said.

Lt. Iweha said investigation was still going on with a view to ascertaining the identity of the suspects.

He said as soon as investigation was completed, the identity of the suspects would be made public.

“Investigation has to be completed before I can tell you the identity of the suspects,’’ he said.