Charles Okah, the alleged mastermind of the 1 October 2010 bombing in Abuja, has ascribed his ordeal to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mr. Okah, an awaiting trial detainee in Kuje Prison, Abuja, is the first defendant in case of terrorism filed by the Federal Government, said in his witness statement that the former president wanted him to implicate General Ibrahim Babangida; Mr. Nasir El-Rufai, now governor of Kaduna State; and Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, founder of African Independent Television, in the 2010 Independence Day Bombing in Abuja.
Mr. Okah was arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) on 16 October 2010 at his residence located at 14B Oranyan Road, Apapa GRA, Lagos, for alleged terrorism and treason in relation to Independence Day bombing.
He was arrested along with his son, Boloebi; a domestic staff, Mr. Kufre Felix Friday and their friends who were in the house at the time.
The next day, he said, they were flown to the DSS Headquarters in Abuja. What followed, he added, made things clearer to him.
“Just before midnight of 17 October 2010, heavily armed hooded DSS operatives burst into my cell and took me blindfolded to an outside location with the aim of trying to intimidate me into believing I was going to be summarily executed. On Monday, October 18, at about 12 noon, I was brought out of my cell to be interrogated for the first time,” he stated.
To his surprise, said Mr. Okah, his interrogators were very friendly and respectful. He claimed they explained to him that he was not their target, but were only seeking his support for “my South-South brother, Goodluck Jonathan”. The support they requested, he explained, was for him to use the Independence Day bombing to implicate General Babangida (Retd.), who was running against Jonathan for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket.
They also wondered why his brother, Henry Okah, was refusing to convince the MEND spokesman to retract the statement taking responsibility for the bomb blast, so that it could be blamed on some Northerners. Mr. Okah stated that his brother had been contacted by Mr. Tony Uranta, a close ally of former President Jonathan.
To get him to do as they wished, Mr. Okah said his interrogators made him obscenely lucrative contract offers and freedom for him and his son in exchange for false testimony that would suggest that his visit to the Abuja residence of General Babangida around March 2010 was when and where they plotted to assassinate ex-President Jonathan through car bombs during the 2010 Independence Day celebration at the Eagle Square.
He was also requested to name, as co-conspirators, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai and his younger brother, Henry. Mr. Okah said he refused the offers out of hand. He was subsequently taken back to his cell and asked to think it over.
The same day at about 5pm, he further said, he was taken from his cell for interrogation, with his blindfold was retained.
The second set of interrogators was different. “They were hostile and very formal; putting it to me that I was the elusive spokesman of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), who goes by the pseudonym “Jomo Gbomo” and demanded the password to the MEND email account,” he stated.
When he could not provide the email password demanded, clamps from a device used for electric shock were put on his nipples and penis. His feet, he added, were placed in ankle- deep basin of water before the device was switched on.
“I immediately lost consciousness after the first jolt passed through my body and found myself awake at the National Hospital Abuja just as the staff on night shift were taking over. In order not to answer questions from the curious medical staff, including telling them my name, I was discharged by the DSS and taken to the State House Clinic where I remained until the morning of October 19, 2010,” Mr. Okah said.
While at the State House Clinic that day, he said he heard Ms. Marlyn Ogar, the then DSS spokesperson, saying on the Nigerian Television Authority network that “our investigations have revealed that Charles Tombra Okah is Jomo Gbomo”.
The detainee said from the time he returned from the hospital on October 19 to October 31, when he wrote his statement, he was not asked to write a statement nor was confronted by anyone who implicated me.
“I was treated nicely, apologized to over the ‘unfortunate electric shocking incident by overzealous persons who would face disciplinary action’, and asked every day during the period to reconsider my position not to cooperate with the DSS implicating the aforementioned persons,” he explained.
It was on 31 October 2010 that he was asked to make a statement relating to a timeline of his activities from September to October 2010.
Of particular interest to his accusers was the purpose of a N2million cheque he issued to Mr. Obi Nwabueze, which he volunteered in his statement.
“I issued a Zenith Bank cheque of Tombra Life Support Co Ltd in the sum of N2million to the 2nd Defendant Mr. Obi Nwabueze on September 13, 2010. The cheque was issued for the purchase of $13,000 from the black market meant for the school fees and upkeep of my son, Boloebi, who was awaiting the renewal of his student’s visa to return to the United States where he was attending the University of Kansas,” explained Mr. Okah.
His arrest had disrupted the travel schedule son, who was subsequently issued a fresh student’s visa after his release from DSS custody and was able to return to the US upon security clearance.
Mr. Okah attached to his witness statement the detail, as evidenced by Account Activity statement, from the University of Kansas.
Unknown to Mr. Okah, Mr. Nwabueze had given a statement on 24 October 2010 in which he also stated the purpose of the cheque issued to him. Despite Mr. Nwabueze’s statement, explained Mr. Okah, the DSS was bent on implicating me by asking the former to retract the statement to say that he bought cars for him.
“The plot to implicate me by the government was as a result of my refusal to do the bidding of former President Jonathan to implicate Mr. Nasir El-Rufai and General Babangida,” he said.
Mr. Okah also dismissed the claim that in his presence, his brother, Henry, gave one Bassey Umoren the sum of N50,000 for the fabrication of compartment in a vehicle. According to him his younger brother did not visit Nigeria throughout 2010, saying the last time they saw each other in Nigeria was in 2009. He provided evidence of this with the younger brother’s passport pages.
He equally denied having ever met Umoren prior to his arrest and that he paid for any welding job in his residence. He said Umoren, the prosecution witness, was in DSS custody from 2008 to 2016 and used as a witness in connection with Charge No. FHCJ/78C/2008 and thus could not have been in his house in 2010 to construct a compartment.
“Bassey Umoren knows nothing about the October 1, 2010, bombing as the same Bassey Umoren is a perpetual witness the DSS has always used hence he had testified in Charge No. FHCJ/78C/2008 at the Federal High Court, Jos, to the effect that he constructed a similar compartment for Henry Okah in 2008 and has been in DSS custody since 2008,” said Mr. Okah.
He added that even when the charge was struck out by the Federal High Court, Jos Division, Umoren remained in protective custody under the witness protection of the DSS and could not have been seen with him or my brother, Henry, in 2010 or anytime.
Mr. Okah denied that he asked Mr. Kufre Felix Friday, his domestic help and another prosecution witness, to ship any item in a sealed container or padlocked Ghana Must Go bags to Port Harcourt through ABC Transport Co Ltd. to Nimi Allison.
He described as unfortunate the failure of the
prosecution to bring a staff of ABC Transport to testify that it is the company’s standard operating procedure to ship sealed packages and issue waybills without knowing and inspecting the content. He contended that no transport company or courier company would agree to take any concealed consignment without first inspecting the content and recording such in the waybill.
He stated that he has, at all times, been known and addressed as Charles Tombra Okah, as shown by all his documents, business transactions and correspondences, denying ever been known or addressed as Charles Orwka
“I reasonably believe that the attempts by some persons and the DSS to link my name with that of Charles Orkwa are malicious, provocative and wicked as Charles Okah and the said Charles Orkwa are not the same persons,” he said.
He denied the allegation that four cars were parked at his residence in September. Mr. Okah added that at the time of his arrest, his gateman Mohammed, who is from Borno State, was arrested by DSS, detained and interrogated for months with respect to visitors, the presence of vehicles in his house and alleged fabrication by a welder.
“That the gateman did not offer any valuable information implicating me or the 2nd defendant as regards any vehicle that was parked in my compound or worked on by a welder. Interestingly, my gateman’s statement was not included in the proof of evidence. The gateman decided to leave my employment after his ordeal at the DSS and his whereabouts is presently unknown to me,” said Mr. Okah
He further stated that the visitor’s register, permanently kept at his gate and signed before any visitor is allowed into the house, was seized along with other important documents when the DSS raided the home. He demanded that it be produced, as he intends to use it as evidence.
“A look at the register will confirm that at no time did Bassey Umoren visit my house. At no point did the said Mr. Bassey Umoren fabricate or construct compartments in my house. I never paid for any Mazda 626 neither did I arrange that the Mazda 626 be driven to Port Harcourt. I have never met any Nimi Allison,” Mr. Okah explained.
Mr. Okah recalled that the Nigerian Police, under the then Inspector-General of Police Hafiz Ringim, hired one Jeffery William Haverty, a Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to assist in the investigation of the Independence Day bombing.
He said the report of the investigation, issued to the South African Police Service for the prosecution of his brother, Henry, was ignored by the government in his case. He stated that report revealed that the explosion was ignited with a phone and the phones were recovered from the scene of the blast contrary to the claim of DSS on the existence of timers.
Mr. Okah said he neither bought nor gave timers to Nwabueze or any other person.