Witness tells of bomb in Okah terrorism trial

2012-10-04 06:58

The South Gauteng High Court heard a lesson in elementary bomb building in Nigerian national Henry Okah’s terrorism trial.

This was just one of the startling topics covered by Nigerian national Selekaye Victor Ben, who yesterday became the second witness to take the stand in the trial of Okah.

Okah is being prosecuted for his alleged role in masterminding the bombings of the Nigerian capital Abuja in October 2010.

At the time of the bombing Okah was living in Johannesburg.

Ben, who was also a member of the rebel group Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), told the court that he had worked for Okah from about 2005 onwards and that Okah had allegedly tried to teach him how to make car bombs.

“In my presence, the accused put together components that he used in car explosives,” Ben told the court, referring to an incident unrelated to Okah’s present trial.

Ben testified that Okah used mobile telephones, remote controls and dynamite paired with hand grenades or rocket propelled grenades to construct the bombs.

These were allegedly used in attacks on oil companies and the Nigerian military in the resource-rich Niger Delta.

Ben said that after the phone was called, the bomb would detonate.

“(Okah) is the only that has the numbers ... the accused makes the phone call,” Ben testified.

He also said that Okah had allegedly tried to teach him how to construct such devices, although he was apparently not a very good teacher.

“He taught me carefully, over and over again, but I did not pay attention because the first two people he taught died from it,” said Ben.

He testified that he was present at one of these deaths, when Okah had allegedly instructed him and few other members of Mend to carry explosives to Port Harcourt.

“I really don’t know what happened, but one of the cars exploded,” Ben testified.

Under cross-examination by Advocate Lucky Maunatlala, Ben was willing to concede very little, but confirmed that he was now a private businessman who tendered for contracts with the Nigerian government and the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta.

Maunatlala put it to him that it would not be in the interests of the oil companies or the current Nigerian government to have someone with Okah’s views in the picture.

Okah’s defence have maintained that there was a deliberate attempt by the Nigerian government to silence Okah because he represented a portion of the people of the Niger Delta who would continue their “struggle” against government.

The unrest and violence in the Niger Delta largely came to an end in 2009, when militants were offered an amnesty, provided they agreed to lay down arms.

The majority population group in the oil-rich Niger Delta are Ijaw people, who Ben said were previously under-represented in government and grew up in deprived circumstances.

He said he did not see any reason to continue with an armed struggle, as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was also an Ijaw man.

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