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Henry Okah.,
Henry Okah. Photo Credit: SAPA
Nigerian, Henry Okah, has been convicted in South Africa, after prosecutors presented that he masterminded the October 1, 2010 bombings in Abuja –which left 12 people dead and 36 injured. He was found guilty of 13-terrorism related charges. “Effectively, the accused (Okah) is therefore sentenced to 24 years imprisonment,” said Judge Neels Claassen, in his ruling. He would serve 24 years, concurrently with 13 years for threatening the South Africa Government in 2010 after his arrest. He was the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), and a broker with the Nigerian Government for the Amnesty deal for the Niger Delta militants. Claassen said, “The first event is the March 15, 2010 bomb attack, where two cars bombs occurred at the venue of a political gathering which was being attended by the Delta State Governor in Warri, Delta state, where one person died and several others were injured. The second event occurred on October 1, 2010, in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, where two cars bombs exploded killing eight people with several others injured. Third event is the threat to the Nigerian government.” “All these three events were targeted at embarrassing President Goodluck Jonathan. The convict during the trial had never accepted any responsibility nor shown any remorse in spite of the fact that overwhelming evidence linked him with MEND which claimed responsibilities for the bombings. It would, therefore, be wrong for the court to turn a blind eye to the fact that the struggle in the Niger Delta which led to the events is a political one.” “The group’s agitation for improved environmental situation and provision of infrastructure in the area is aimed at attracting the Federal Government attention to the plight of the people in the area. Though a good cause, but it does not justify any act of violence and terrorism.’’ He continued, “Having considered that the convict does not have any criminal record both in South Africa and in Nigeria before the struggle in the Niger Delta, I am of the considered view that his clean record both in South Africa and Nigeria should add to his sentence mitigation. Also, the fact that his children will suffer emotionally for his absence if maximum sentence is given is considered in mitigation of his sentence.” “This is not an easy matter to deal with in sentencing. The sentence of the convict to life imprisonment is not appropriate and to give him suspended sentence is equally not appropriate. To strike a balance, the convict is hereby sentenced to 12 years in prison for accounts 1,3,5,7, 9 and 11 for the Warri bombings. The accused is sentence to 12 years for counts 2,4,6,8 and 10 for the Abuja bombings. The accused is sentence to 10 years for the threat to the government of Nigeria. However, the sentence for counts 2,4,6,8,10 and 13 will run concurrently, In all the accused is hereby sentenced to 24 years in prison.” The judgement has been greeted with mixed views in Nigeria, with some seeing it as appropriate for terrorism and others, harsh. Henry Okah intends to appeal.

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This article was first published on 27th March 2013

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