Johannesburg - The Johannesburg High Court heard on Wednesday about weapons and ammunition smuggled in through secret compartments in trucks, explosives detonated from cars and abducted expats who were used as human shields.
This was as a former member and spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), Selekaye Victor Ben, testified of his involvement in the struggle for equality and development in the Delta.
Ben was testifying during the trial of Nigerian terrorism accused Henry Okah.
It is the State’s case that Okah is the mastermind and organiser of the Independence Day bombings in Abuja, Nigeria, on October 1, 2010.
Eight people were killed and 53 were injured during the twin car bombings near Eagle Square, where the official celebrations were taking place with heads of African states present.
The group allegedly led by Okah orchestrated attacks on the Nigerian federal government as well as on foreign oil companies from 2005.
Ben testified about how he was “carefully taught” how to assemble and to detonate car explosives by the group’s leader himself, the man he came to know as “master”.
Attacks included one at the Shell flow station and at the Bonga Oil field, where four expats were abducted and ransom to the amount of 135 million Naira was demanded for their lives.
“Before Mend started, a publication advising oil operators in the region to evacuate was circulated. An ultimatum was issued for them to evacuate. At the expiration of the ultimatum, attacks started,” Ben said at the beginning of his testimony.
Ben said he had issued the media release under the instruction of Mend leaders Okah, Ben’s own brother Boyloaf and Tom Polo via e-mail..
“What was the execution of the attacks? What was used?” asked State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams.
“Explosives, dynamite and hand grenades,” he answered.
“Who supplied the weapons used?” Abrahams asked.
“All weapons used by Mend were supplied by the accused.”
The weapons, Ben said, were hidden inside trucks and on two occasions, Okah had asked him to fetch the trucks and their hidden cargo.
“I later discovered when you open the back of the truck there’s an opening underneath the truck big enough for a human being to be inside. That’s where arms and ammunition were being hidden,” Ben continued.
He also admitted to having assisted in buying the military camouflage uniforms and other attire the militants wore during their attacks.
“Did you use any other vehicles?” Abrahams asked.
“Yes, a Honda Civic. A deceptive compartment was created in the boot of the vehicle. At the end of the boot is a wall; we created another wall so that in-between we could store the explosives, dynamite and hand grenades,” he answered.
According to Ben, Okah had expertise in assembling car bombs using a phone, explosives, remote controls and the car’s battery.
He said: “After he [Okah] had put the components together, there were two outlets. One would lead to the battery of the car, the other would lead to the sack which has dynamite and explosives normally kept at the back seat of the car.
“When the phone is called, it transfers a current to the motherboard and the current flows to the cap [of dynamite], causing an explosion.”
Abrahams probed: “Who makes the call to that phone?”
“The accused [Okah],” said Ben.
Ben was arrested in 2007 and charged with five counts of terrorism, but was later released when amnesty was granted to militants in 2009 on condition of peace in the Delta.
Ben said he was informed by a childhood friend, Raphael Damfebo, on September 23, 2010, that Okah was planning an attack at Eagle Square on October 1.
“I asked him if he could say this to another person, he said yes and I took him to my brother and he repeated what he told me. Thereafter, I reported the issue to the authorities,” he said.
The authorities cordoned off Eagle Square, but two bombs still went off near the Hilton Hotel and the arcade area close to the square.
The trial continues.