Nigerian authorities ‘knew about planned terror attack’

Victor Ben Selekaye, a former spokesperson of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) – a militant group that claimed responsibility of the deadly attacks – told the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday he personally notified security of a planned attack on September 24 2010 after learning of it a day earlier.

Selekaye is the prosecution's second witness in the terrorism trial of alleged former MEND leader Henry Okah.

"I got to know of the planned attack through my childhood friend, Raphael Damfebo. He met me at a hotel in Abuja on September 23 2010. He told me that the accused [Okah] had communicated to him of the planned car bombing in Abuja on October 1 2010. I asked if he [Damfebo] could repeat the same statements before a third party and he consented."

"So I took him to my brother, Victor Ebikabowei, alias Boyloaf, and Damfebo reiterated the statement. Thereafter, I reported the matter to the Nigerian security authorities. According to our laws [Criminal Act], a person who has knowledge of such information and chooses to conceal it is treated as an accomplice in crime if discovered," Selekaye narrated.

Selekaye explained his notification was the reason security was so heavily deployed at the Eagle Square, adjacent to the scene of the bombing.

The explosion, which occurred during the country's independence anniversary, took place about 300 metres from Eagle Square where celebrations were being held.

Selekaye was responding to a question from defence lawyer, Lucky Maunatlala, during cross-examination as to whether the Nigerian government had knowledge of the bomb attack having followed MEND's activities for a while.

"When I reported the matter to security, I clearly indicated to them that the scene of the attack was Eagle Square. Being a big city, the security couldn't place the exact spot of the planned attack in order to avert it. The fact that it occurred near Eagle Square confirmed what I had told them," Selekaye said.

MEND, a militant group formed in 2005 to agitate for, among other things, the equitable government distribution of the oil resources from the oil-rich Niger Delta region, executed its first attack on the Shell Opobo pipeline in the River state in December 2005.

The group went on to carry out a string of related attacks, including the abduction of four foreign oil workers in January 2006.

Granted amnesty
Selekaye was arrested in July 2007 for his involvement with the group but was later granted amnesty. He subsequently served as the secretary for the Peace and Reconciliatory Committee, instituted by the Nigerian government to dialogue with the former members of the militant group, to cease hostilities and come up with a permanent solution to the conflict.

"The accused taught me how to make bombs with dynamite that was detonated with a phone. The component assembled by the accused would be placed under the driver's seat. The wire would then be connected to the dynamite and detonated by the accused," he explained.

At the trial, the prosecution's Shaun Abrahams presented exhibits including two backpack carriers, three belt compartments, camouflage T-shirts, camouflage battle vests, belts and a long-sleeved T-shirt. These items were all recovered from Okah's residence during the police raid, according to Abrahams.

Selekaye told the court he had seen all the items in the MEND camps during its active days.

The trial was adjourned to October 4.

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