5th October, 2010
The presidency has described as “diversionary” and “outright lie” claims by Henry Okah, the leader of Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND in an interview with Al Jazeera television network today that he is being persecuted because of his refusal to hang the blame for the October 1 bomb blasts in Abuja on the neck of Northern politicians as directed by one of the aides of the President Jonathan.
The presidency however said it will not join issues with Okah which it described as “accused mass murderer” on his claims in the television interview.
Okah was arrested and arraigned in court yesterday by South African Police yesterday over allegations that he masterminded the bomb blasts.
Marilyn Ogar, spokesperson for Nigeria’s secret service, the State Security Services had also told journalists yesterday that the MEND leader who have been living in South Africa is a key focus of investigations to unravel those behind the deadly explosions which resulted in 10 deaths.
According to her, all the nine suspects that have so far been arrested over the blasts “have direct links to Henry Okah”.
But speaking to Al Jazeera this afternoon, Henry Okah said he is being held responsible for the bomb blasts because he refused to abide by instruction from a highly placed presidential aide that he should disassociate MEND from the blasts even though the organisation had earlier claimed responsibility for it.
Okah told the television network in an interview broadcast in Nigeria this afternoon that the presidential aide who contacted him had also asked him to declare on behalf of MEND that Northern presidential aspirants were behind the blasts.
He said the unnamed presidential aide told him that he will be helping to enhance the 2011 presidential aspirations of President Jonathan while damaging that of the Northern aspirants by making the claim.
Okah added that it was with the believe that he will play the script drawn out for him by the presidential aide that President Jonathan had gone to town with claims that MEND was not responsible for the blasts despite the fact that the militant organisation had not only claimed responsibility after the attacks, but had also warned of the impending action less than an hour before the bombs went off.
Henry Okah said his refusal to abide to instructions from the presidential aide was at the root of his on going trial for terrorism charges in the South African court.
But while denying the claims, Ima Niboro, Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity in a press release this evening challenged Okah to name the presidency official who contacted him or “shut up”.
The presidency also noted that Okah who is being tried in South Africa and is being investigated in Nigeria is a drowning man, desperate to take others down with him.
“Okah is a man who has been known to say one thing and do another, and we are not at all surprised by his diversionary rhetoric,” Niboro said in the statement.
“Mr Henry Okah who has been openly charged for masterminding the terror attacks against his home country has been quoted by Al JazeeraNetwork as claiming that an aide of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan called to ask him to blame the October 1, 2010, bombings on Northern politicians.
“This of course is an outright lie, and we challenge Okah to name the Presidentâ€™s aide that spoke to him on the subject.
“There is an ongoing investigation on Okahâ€™s alleged involvement in the bombings in Nigeria.
“In South Africa, he has already been charged to court. He should face the charges, and stop making frivolous claims.
“There is no question that Okah is a drowning man determined to pull others down with him, and there is hardly any purpose to be served by joining issues with an accused mass murderer.
By Oluokun Ayorinde/Abuja