MILITANTS and close associates of one of the leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), Mr. Henry Okah who was taken into custody, September 3, by security agents in Angola have called for his release, saying that the allegations of gun-running against him were fabricated and his continued detention would spell calamity for the Federal Government in the Niger-Delta region in 2008.
They said that the mandatory 106 days, which the government of Angola is authorized to keep a person in detention without bail had expired and the Nigerian government should step in and secure the release of the suspect, adding that he could be re-arrested if anything criminal was found on him but must be treated as innocent until found guilty.
Mr. Okah who is also a businessman had been held by the Angolan authorities at the Departemento de Investigaeac Nacional and Criminal without bail since his arrest about three months ago.
He was reportedly tapped on his shoulder while he was making a call in the Passport Control Area of the Luanda International Airport and escorted to the SAA counter by two security operatives. He was, thereafter, refused booking and put into custody.
A shocked Okah was taken to a room and left there for 45 minutes with his companion while his bag, which he had earlier identified as opened and searched without him being present. He was later brought in to identify a paper written in Portuguese on the contents of the package, and he refused to sign the content, saying he would not sign for something that was written in the language he did not understand.
A representative of the militants who spoke to Vanguard on phone, yesterday, said,’Henry Okah was in touch with the present government in Nigeria in the current peace process in the Niger-Delta, you people in the media were the ones that reported that the Vice President visited him in South-Africa. So, he should be treated fairly without prejudice of politics and any intimacy.
We are not aware up till now that he was caught with arms in Angola , he went there on a business trip to inspect a ship he wanted to buy.
The government should know that Henry Okah is a top member of the MEND, which is prosecuting the Niger-Delta struggle, we have allowed them enough time to talk with the Angola government and bring him out but with his continued detention, they are creating more problems for the region because when we start in 2008, it will be disastrous?, he stated.
A close associate of Okah who spoke to Vanguard on travails of the militant leader said, Henry Okah was travelling with his Nigerian passport on a business trip with a companion, a mariner, Captain Edward Atata when they were arrested at the Luanda International Airport in Angola while boarding the flight back to South-Africa.
His Portuguese speaking representative, Nadis Dos Santors arrived Angola on Friday evening, 14th September and on Tuesday, 18th September; she approached a law firm and consulted a criminal attorney by the name of Ludmila Sousa to handle this case.
This attorney?s firm, Rui L. Ferreria and Gurilhermna Prata, after the court case interrogations on Thursday, 20th September, perceived that this case may have a political twist and nature?, he stated.
The source said,Mr. Henry Okah and his companion, Captain Atta, who absolutely nothing was found
on, have been detained for nearly three months without bail under an unlawful and non existent Act. The media have reported false accusations that Henry Okah was caught for arms deal but no evidence or arms were found on him and his companion during their arrest while boarding their plane to South-Africa.
The trip was clearly a business venture to Angola as stated.
His case file number, 113231/07 is handled by Mr. Almerindo on the sixth floor, Department of Orgnanized Crime.
It should be brought to notice that Captain Atta has been immersed and detained unjustly in this matter and should be released immediately, having no case in this whatsoever. He traveled with Henry Okah, as his companion to inspect a ship due to the fact that Mr. Okah has no relevant expertise of ships. Captain Atta, having done his duty, was returning to base?, he added.