Nigerian militant Henry Okah was jailed for 24 years by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday over deadly bomb blasts in Nigeria several years ago.
“Effectively, the accused Okah is therefore sentenced to 24 years imprisonment,” Judge Neels Claassen said as he handed down sentence.
On January 21 Okah was found guilty on 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device, News24 reports.
The charges related to two car bombs in Abuja, Nigeria, in which 12 people were killed and 36 injured on October 1, 2010, the anniversary of the country’s independence.
The second bombing took place in Warri on March 15 the same year at a post amnesty dialogue meeting. One person was killed and eleven seriously injured.
In both bombings, two car bombs went off minutes apart in both places. The cars were parked in close proximity to each other.
“It has been uncovered that Henry Okah came from South Africa for the Warri bombings, purchased the cars which were then moved to the welder and later to the house of one of the suspects … where he personally wired the bombs,” Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar told a news conference in 2010.
“Subsequently, on March 14, Okah departed the country, apparently to create an alibi for himself over the bombings that took place the next day,” she said.
Claassen sentenced Okah to 12 years imprisonment for each of the bombings and 13 years for the threats made to the South African government after his arrest in October 2010.
The 13 years would run concurrently with the 24 years.
In January during judgment Claassen said the State had proved Okah’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and his failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.
Okah has denied any involvement, claiming the charges against him were politically motivated.
Both the March and October 2010 bombings were claimed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Security sources said Okah was long one of the masterminds behind the group, helping to supply weapons and to organise years of attacks on infrastructure including pipelines and flowstations in Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry. Okah has denied being MEND’s leader.
Although Okah is not a resident in South Africa and the crimes were committed outside the country’s borders, the International Co-operation in Criminal Matters Act gave South Africa the jurisdiction to try the crimes.