Prison authorities in South Africa have confirmed that Henry Okah — the guerrilla leader of the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) sentenced in January 2013 to 24 years in prison for terrorism charges — was involved in a failed jailbreak last month.
Although details of the botched escape from Leeukop Prison in northern Johannesburg were not released, Spokesman for South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services, Manelisi Wolela told AFP: “I can confirm that Okah is one of the five inmates that attempted to escape and whose efforts were foiled”.
The department revealed that most of the offenders who hatched the botched escape are serving life sentences for serious offences, such as murder, kidnapping and robbery. It added that since there were 11 attempted jail breaks in the 12 months preceding March 2013; security at the prison has now been tightened.
Okah was convicted for spearheading the 2010 Nigeria Independence Day car bombings in Abuja that resulted in the death of at least 12 people, and for instigating two explosions in Warri, Delta State, South-South Nigeria in March 2010, among many others.
The 48-year-old was first arrested in February 2008 in Angola and then deported to Nigeria on a 62-count charge of treason, terrorism, illegal possession of firearms and arms trafficking.
With a death penalty looming, however, Okah accepted late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s Presidential Amnesty Programme and was consequently freed on July 13th 2009.
But he was re-arrested on 2nd October 2010 — a day after the 2010 Independence Day bombing — in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the trial began on October 1st 2012, exactly two years after the bombing.
Okah often poartrays himself as an important and influential figure, for example, he previously claim to have been influential in President Goodluck Jonathan’s appointment of Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke as Minister of Petroleum Resources, after intense lobbying by the minister and an aide of the president.
Mr. Okah, who led MEND from his South African base for many years has consistently accused President Jonathan and his aides of pressuring him tio implicate certain Nigerian politicians as being involved in the independence day bombings.
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