An account of the role played by aides to Goodluck Jonathan in trying to convince Heny Okah to dump the blame for the Independence Day bomb blast in Abuja on “Northern elements” are emerging, just as Mr. Okah's lawyers received the news of a January 4, 2011 date to appeal his denial of bail application which has enabled his continued detention in South Africa. Last month, he was denied bail by a South African magistrate after the judge said "The accused was untruthful and he lied to the court" .
Saharareporters has obtained a confidential report which might a major role in the trial that details calls made to Okah by several key Jonathan aides the night after the bomb blasts, at a time MEND was claiming responsibility for them. Those named in the secret report include Jonathan's former ADC, Moses Jituboh, a police officer whose current designation is “Personal Security Officer to the president;" the Minister for the Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe; and Tony Uranta, the same Jonathan operative who was recently named in the $50,000 bribery of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG).
The secret document shows that four calls were traced to Mr. Orubebe, and several calls as well as a key text message were traced to Mr. Uranta, who used telephone numbers: +2348075407801, +2347084961205 and +2348069280206 to communicate as he acted as an intermediary between Mr. Okah and President Jonathan up to the night after the Abuja bombing in October.
The document shows that after the bombs went off, Uranta sent a text message to Okah, saying, "Please get JG to withdraw claim," ["JG" being the shortened form of "Jomo Gbomo", the mysterious but widely-known email name used in MEND releases] but Okah responded by text, saying , "Don't even think about that".
Mr. Uranta responded with another text message to Mr. Okah, saying the critical words, "Govt will blame bombing on Northern elements."
That was the last text message before Mr. Uranta joined a delegation of Niger Delta delegates which “commiserated” with Jonathan over the bombings. Meanwhile, as Jonathan possibly thought the deal to blame the blast on "Northern elements" had sailed through with Mr. Okah, he announced publicly that MEND was not responsible for the bombing even as the MEND had already claimed responsibility.
As was exclusively reported by SaharaReporters, Mr. Okah's house was ransacked by the South African police the day before the Abuja bombings, and his phones and laptops—as well as those of his children—confiscated. The search had been initiated by the Nigerian government, having been tipped off by Western security agents about the impending blast. MEND had also issued press releases announcing its intentions prior to the blast.
The confidential document revealed that Jonathan called his South African counterpart, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to have Okah arrested to "prevent" the deadly blast. In turn, Zuma directly asked South African prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, to get a Magistrate to issue a search warrant and an arrest warrant for Okah's arrest.
Two South African Magistrates, Nonhle Jadezweni and PJ du Plessis, were contacted to issue the search warrant and warrant of arrest. Both initially refused to comply, for lack of sufficient information or disclosure of course of action, but Mr. Du Plessis was told by the prosecutor that it would be in the interest of the Nigeria-South African bilateral relationship.
As Du Plessis was contemplating the next course of action, Mr. Abrahams put a man whom he said was President Zuma on the phone to tell the judge how important it was to issue an arrest warrant for Okah. The prosecutor then went ahead to produce an Interpol "Red Notice" which was issued in 2007 on Okah.
On the part of Magistrate Jadezweni, a search warrant was issued to the effect that Okah was a violent criminal with stockpiles of arms in his Johannesburg mansion. A search into Okah house did not yield any arms.
Dumisa Ntsebeza SC has now joined Okah's defense team and will be with him at the South Gauteng High Court in Johanessburg in two weeks to try and secure his bail. Okah's legal team is requesting the magistrate records as a way of proving that his arrest and detention was orchestrated politically because of his refusal to be used by Jonathan to endorse his candidature as president in the upcoming 2011 general elections.
If Okah's trial proceeds as planned, revelations from his team will ultimately reveal the extent of the Nigerian government’s involvement with Okah at the highest levels. The involvement of President Zuma and the Johannesburg Magistrate, Heine Louw, were attributed to pressures on South African business interests in Nigeria. Mr. Louw is due for promotion to the South Africa High Court system.
Meanwhile, MEND sources said they are planning series of attacks that would cripple Nigerian oil production between now and January 2011. Chevron has already suspended production due to recent pipeline sabotage. A MEND source told SaharaReporters that their sabotage campaign would affect as much as 500,000 barrels per day.
MEND's threats follow the disappearance of four militants from Port Harcourt prison a few days ago. Our source said they fear that Tamuno Tonye Kuna, known as "Commander Obese", who recently surrendered to the Joint Military Task Force, may have been killed by JTF operatives along with the four missing militants.
“Commander Obese” was reportedly lured out of the creeks by Farrah Dagogo with his fighters and made to turn over some hostages.
Said a MEND source to SaharaReporters, "President Jonathan promised Obese N500 million and a second Amnesty, but they arrested him as soon as he surrendered his forces."