JOHANNESBURG – Nigerian militant leader Henry Okah was in contact with his bombing conspirators in Nigeria before and after a deadly car blast in the capital of Abuja, according to a South African police investigation.
Okah was arrested in Johannesburg shortly after the blasts that killed at least 10 people at an October 1 parade to mark the 50th anniversary of Nigerian independence. Four possible suspects have been arrested in Nigeria.
South African police investigators said in an affidavit, read by a prosecutor at a bail hearing for Okah in a Johannesburg court, that he was “the mastermind” behind the blast but they could not reveal the evidence implicating Okah to protect their confidential sources.
Okah, residing in South Africa and charged with conspiracy in the bombing, said in an affidavit read by his defence lawyer that he did not have “any involvement whatsoever with the bomb acts”.
The attacks were claimed by Nigeria’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
Security experts believe Okah — who accepted a government amnesty last year after gun-running and treason charges against him were dropped — was at one time the brains behind MEND, although he has denied ever being its leader.
Police searched Okah’s home and found invoices for the purchase of thousands of submachine guns, rockets launchers and anti-aircraft machine guns, but did not find any firearms.
They also found that Okah and his wife own about 10 properties in South Africa valued at over $1 million.
In a separate affidavit, Nigeria’s attorney general asked that Okah be denied bail.
Okah, dressed in a brown sweater and jeans, shook his head and laughed when a prosecutor read the affidavit in which the attorney general said Okah was engaged in economic sabotage and had links to various terrorists groups.
“The case of the state is so weak against me that it is non-existent,” Okah said in his affidavit.
Okah said he was being used as a political pawn by Nigerian
President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of an election.
The bombs have brought regional rivalries in Africa’s most populous nation to the top of the political agenda ahead of what was already set to be the most fiercely contested presidential race since the end of military rule a decade ago.
The court was adjourned before a decision was made on whether the grant Okah bail. It will resume on Friday.