Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Nigerian Terrorist Attacks - Accusations and Recriminations

Recent events in Nigeria are saddening.  On the 50th anniversary of the country's independence, the government decided to throw a big bash (not that there is anything to celebrate in Nigeria, except perhaps the criminality and corruption of politicians, government officials and their business associates who help them perpetrate the crimes and hide the loot).
The British intelligence agency had alerted British citizens in Nigeria and the Nigerian government about a potential October 1 attack days before, and in fact, had prevented its invited dignitaries from attending the celebrations in Abuja on October 1, 2010.  Based on this intelligence two days before the attacks, the Interpol had searched the home of Mr. Henry Okah, a Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) arms supplier living in South Africa.

The bombs, whose explosions had punctuated the events of October 1 in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were claimed to have been planted by the notorious Niger Delta militant group, MEND, who had sent emails and text messages to the Nigerian Security Agencies, the BBC, and other News agencies claiming responsibility.
The smoke had barely settled when President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan made the puzzling announcement that MEND was not behind the attacks despite the emails and text received from them.  Experience and history of this kind of attack anywhere in the world shows that it takes more than a few hours to make the determination of culpability, and even then it is often a law enforcement agent, and not the president, that makes such announcements, typically after weeks or months of careful investigation. It begs the question of the veracity of Mr. Jonathan's claims and absolution of MEND in spite of their claims to have carried out the attacks.

Mr. Okah has since been arrested and was said to be in complicity with the group that planted the explosives.  Mr. Raymond Dokpesi, the campaign director general of one time Nigerian military president, retired General Ibrahim Babangida, who is Mr. Jonathan's most formidable adversary for the Presidential elections, was also arrested and claimed to be in contact with Mr. Okah via text messages and phone days leading up to the October 1 attacks.  Curiously though, Mr. Dokpesi was released after interrogation, indicating that the claims may be spurious.

Mr. Okah, through an interview with Al Jazeera claimed not to be involved in the attacks and in fact had been contacted by an associate of Mr. Jonathan's to announce that MEND was not responsible for the attacks hours before Mr. Jonathan made that strange announcement absolving MEND.  He further claimed that Mr. Jonathan's associate on the call had essentially told him that if he did this, he would be a free man.

It is even more baffling as members of MEND were shown in the creeks on an Al Jazeera interview less than 48 hours before the blasts, engaging in paramilitary exercises and flagrantly denouncing the Nigerian government and professing their resolve to keep fighting in the Niger Delta.

The questions now are a) Why would the President of Nigeria absolve the militant groups even as investigations had barely begun?  b) Is Mr. Jonathan using the attacks opportunistically to denigrate his political foes and thus win the sympathy of Nigerians?  c) Could members of the Babangida camp be in bed with Mr. Okah, or in fact are his sponsors?

It should be easy to establish any connection between the Babangida camp and Mr. Okah if one exists.  Since the British had some intelligence on the attacks before they happened, sifting through these should shed some light on the investigation.  Following the money trail if indeed there was any funneled to Mr. Okah for the attacks should lead to the sponsor.  If all the claims made by Mr. Jonathan however are false, then Mr. Jonathan and his associates are perpetrating a crime at least as heinous as the October 1 attacks.