Leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry and Charles Okah, have jointly filed a N5 billion lawsuit against former President Goodluck Jonathan over allegation of assassination the ex-president leveled against them.
Making good on an earlier threat to sue Jonathan over his allegation, the Okah brothers, who are standing trial for alleged terrorism in Nigeria and South Africa, have instructed their lawyers (First Law Solicitors) to sue the former president and his media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, who released a press statement on his behalf recently.
In filing the suit, the brothers said the entire contents of the said statement issued by Eze breached their fundamental right to fair hearing as secured and guaranteed to them by the extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004.
The brief on the lawsuit was contained in a statement issued and released by the counsel to the Okah brothers, First Law Solicitors (Legal Practitioners) and signed by the Senior Partner, Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, Esq., a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY yesterday.
In the statement titled, ‘Former President Goodluck Jonathan and Niger Delta Avengers: We Hold Okah Brothers’ Brief to Sue Ex-President for Five Billion Naira’, Charles Okah also filed a 14-paragraph narrative in which he reacted to and corroborated the recent revelations made by one Cynthia Whyte regarding the unsuccessful attempts made by former President Jonathan to lobby the MEND to endorse the former President’s 2015 failed re-election bid.
The solicitors, according to the information said, “We have been consulted and our professional services were subsequently retained by Messrs. Henry Emomotimi Okah and Charles Tonbra Okah (whom we shall hereinafter, jointly refer to as our “clients”).
“Our clients have instructed us to file a Five Billion Naira (N5bn) lawsuit against former President Goodluck Jonathan and one Ikechukwu Eze who released a Press Statement on behalf of the former President on or about August 8, 2016.
“It is our client’s brief that, the entire contents of the said statement breached their fundamental right to fair hearing as secured and guaranteed to them by the extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004.
“Secondly, one of our clients, Mr. Charles Okah has reacted to and corroborated the recent revelations made by one Cynthia Whyte regarding the unsuccessful attempts made by former President Jonathan to lobby the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to endorse the former President’s 2015 failed re-election bid. Please find below, our client’s narrative of the saga, to wit:
“1. “Several days ago, my attention was drawn to the mention of my name in a statement released by one Ms. Cynthia Whyte, spokesperson for the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), a splinter group from the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
“2. The said statement detailing how the Avengers was formed and published in an online news media, Sahara Reporters, revealed that I was visited in Kuje Prison Abuja at night around November 2014 by Messrs. Kingsley Kuku and Gordons Obuah, Special Adviser on Niger Delta and Chief Security Officer respectively, to former President Goodluck Jonathan to convey a message to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to endorse the former President as the group’s choice in the 2015 general elections.
“3. I can confirm that indeed such a visit took place. I can also confirm that the RNDA account by Cynthia Whyte is absolutely correct.
“4. On November 20, 2014 at about 2100 hours, I was woken up in my single cell by the then Chief Warder Mr. Stephen Edogbanya (currently on suspension over the recent Kuje Prison jail break) who asked me to get dressed to receive two high profile visitors from the Presidency in the office of the Officer-in-Charge. The first thing that crossed my mind was that perhaps a Joseph experience was about to unfold as I lived day by day on hope.
“5. On getting to the office, I met seated, Mr. Kingsley Kuku and Mr. Gordons Obuah along with the then Officer-in-Charge, Mr. Musa Tanko (also suspended over the recent Kuje jailbreak) and a former Controller of the FCT Command, Mr. Kasali Yusuf, who told me he was ordered by the Controller General of Prisons to be around to receive the visitors.
“6. After greetings were exchanged, Mr. Obuah informed the gathering that they had a special confidential message from President Goodluck Jonathan and asked the prisons staff present to excuse us by waiting outside, which they complied.
“7. Before the meeting got started, Mr. Obuah notified me that the entire meeting would be recorded on his mobile phone to be played back for the President to listen when they returned. I had no objections.
“8. I was then briefed of their mission, which was primarily to get a MEND endorsement for President Jonathan ahead of the 2015 general election. A typed statement praising Jonathan and rubbishing Buhari was given to me to pass on to Jomo Gbomo through our channel of communication as what MEND should release without any editing. I was asked to write out the typed statement with my own hand and the typed statement was returned to Mr. Kuku.
“9. A quid pro quo was then proposed. In exchange for our cooperation, the sum of One Million US Dollars was offered in mint cash. I was shown the money and promised that once the endorsement was released the money will be made available and paid to whoever I mentioned to give it to.
“10. They promised that the trumped-up charges against my co-accused Obi Nwabueze and I will be dropped, and that Edmund Ebiware, convicted to life imprisonment would be given a Presidential pardon, while there will be no government interference in influencing the outcome of my brother’s appeal in South Africa.
“11. They promised to get the DSS to release the 40-foot container which was seized at the Tin-Can Island Sea Port after my arrest. The contents of Plastic Floating Dock Sections were imported by my company from Missouri, USA after we were awarded a contract by the United States Embassy in Victoria Island, Lagos to build for them a Floating Jetty. The excuse for impounding the container was that ‘Plastic Explosives’ were discovered inside, which was a wicked lie. Mr. Obuah then gave me his email address to pass on to my wife and ask her to scan and send the shipping documents, import duty etc which she did.
“12. I also used the opportunity of the visit to bring to the attention of Mr. Kuku the plight of the 7 soldiers jailed for life in 2008 for allegedly aiding and abetting Niger Delta militants, and who were bypassed from the amnesty programme in 2009 because they were not indigenes of the Niger Delta region. He took down their names and assured me the Presidential Amnesty Programme would recommend their release and absorption.
“13. The meeting then ended and the prison officers were asked to rejoin us. I was given the sum of Three Hundred Thousand Naira in cash for my upkeep. The money was handed over to Mr. Tanko who said he would deliver it to the Prisons Records Office to be kept for my use since large sums of money on inmates was against their rules. The next day, Mr. Musa Shuaibu, the Records Officer entered N200,000 against my name and N50,000 each against the names of Obi Nwabueze and Edmund Ebiware as instructed by me.
“14. Few days later, I contacted my brother Henry and briefed him about the visit. After listening to me, he immediately rejected the proposal in its entirety, disdained the conditional offer for our release, and the $1million bribe, saying we will not sell our birthright for a bowl of porridge. Henry then told me to brace-up myself for another 4 years in prison should former President Goodluck Jonathan get a second term. He believed that God will take care of our families. He then directed me to appeal to MEND to endorse Muhammadu Buhari, a preferred choice and damn the consequences. That was exactly how MEND rejected Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari”, the information added.
According to media reports, while responding to the allegation that he is one of the sponsors of the Niger Delta Avengers, Jonathan had accused the Okahs of being bent on taking his life. The ex-president said having failed to achieve their plot, which they had hatched in 2007, the brothers through MEND, are trying to instigate the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to go after him.
A statement issued on Jonathan’s behalf by Ikechukwu Eze, his media aide, said “It is no secret that following that incident (independence day bombing), Okah, the leader of MEND was arrested, tried, convicted and jailed in South Africa over terrorism charges by the security authorities of that country. He remains in a South African prison till date while his associates in Nigeria are still being held in Kuje prison, Abuja.
“We, therefore, have no doubt in our mind that MEND, as a group contracted to go after Jonathan with the mind of assassinating him, is yet to abandon this criminal and ignominious craving. It is in this light that we view the purported statement issued by ‘Cynthia White’ as not only a sadistic continuation of this sick desire, but also a futile attempt to instigate the federal government to needlessly go after the former president.”
Attempts by THISDAY to contact Mr. Eze for his response were unsuccessful, as calls made to his phone were unanswered, while sources said he may have left the country. Also, the former Special Adviser on Media to former president Jonathan, Mr. Reuben Abati, could not be reached as at the time this report was filed.