Okah knows fate on Wednesday – Justice Claaseen

Henry Okah

The South African court will rule on the fate of the Nigerian on Wednesday.

Justice Neels Claaseen of the South Guateng High Court, Johannesburg, has said he will deliver judgment in Henry Okah‘s case on March 20.

Mr. Claaseen told both the Prosecution and Defence counsels at the hearing of mitigation of sentence on Okah on Tuesday that he would deliver judgment after the submissions of both counsels on Wednesday.

Mr. Okah, a fractional leader of the Movement of Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), was found guilty of 13 count-charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism, by masterminding two car bomb attacks in Abuja on October 1, 2010.

At the hearing for mitigation of sentence on Tuesday, a defence witness and a Pastor, Filonus Ekiyor, described Mr. Okah as a man of peace.

“My lord, I have known Okah for about 30 years through his elder brother Charles. Henry is a man of peace, is not a man of violence.

“He is a generous man who gives scholarship to poor children to be educated. Certainly, he is not a man of violence,’’ Mr. Ekiyor said.

He said the arrest and trial of Mr. Okah was political rather than a criminal case.

“Okah is loved and respected by people in the Niger Delta. He relates with the people in the search to find a peaceful solution to the Niger Delta crisis. Niger Delta problem is a crisis of underdevelopment.

“There is tension in the area. Many people are following this trial, and your pronouncement may aggravate the tension. Okah is neither a member nor a leader of MEND,’’ Ekiyor said.

“The Okah I know cannot be the one masterminding series of violence in Nigeria between 2005 to 2010. If he had not been in prison here in South Africa, he could have been linked with the violence in the Northern Nigeria now,’’ Mr. Ekiyor said.

He said Okah is a business man dealing in oil.

However, the prosecutor, Shauns Abrahams, said the witness being a pastor is expected to tell the truth at all times.

“With more than 30 years of relationship with the accused, are you telling this court that you did not know that Okah is the leader of MEND and with the name Jomo Bomo?

“As a pastor, one would have expected you to tell the truth at all times. The accused in a letter written and signed by him admitted that he is the leader of MEND, and agreed with the Amnesty Committee set up by the Nigerian government to tell his group to stop the violence and lay down their arms.

“But instead of honouring the agreement, he purchased and supplied the explosives, timing devices from South Africa, and paid for the car used for Warri bombing,’’ Mr. Abrahams said.

Another witness, Jahanus Clarke, who is a pastor and education counsellor in the school being attended by Mr. Okah’s children, said that the children are going through emotional trauma due to their father’s absence from home.

“As a counsellor, the teachers complain to me about the emotion Okah’s the children were going through with the long absence of their father.

“The youngest among them will always cry and complain of nightmare that his father has been killed in his dreams,’’ Mr. Clarke said.

In his response, the prosecution said: “The accused has never been available to his family even when in South Africa.”

He told the judge that he would no longer call witnesses for aggravation sentence.

At the end of the hearing, the presiding judge, after consultations with the counsels, set March 20 for them to address the court.

Mr. Claaseen said that after the addresses by both counsels, he would deliver sentence in the trial.

(NAN)


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