Independence Day bombing: S/Africa’s Supreme Court reduces Okah’s sentence from 24 to 20 years

Presidency hails conviction

THE South African Supreme Court of Appeal has reduced the sentence of the Independence Day bomber, Henry Okah, from 24 years to 20 years.

In a reaction to the sentence, the Nigerian government hailed the court for the conviction.

The court reduced the sentence after finding that it did not have jurisdiction to try him on some of the counts.

It also found that the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Okah made threats against South African companies in Nigeria in 2012 as he was in prison.

Okah‚ who was granted permanent residency status in South Africa in 2007‚ was arrested in Johannesburg on October 2‚ 2010 and charged with 13 counts under the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.

The Act enables extra-territorial prosecution of criminal offences comprising acts of terrorism and related activities.

The first 12 counts were related to bombings that occurred in Nigeria at the Government House Annex in Warri‚ Delta State, on 15 March 2010 and Eagle Square‚ Abuja on 1 October 2010.

The bombings resulted in the deaths of 12 people, with 64 people severely injured.

Count 13 alleged that Okah had threatened certain South African entities commercially active in Nigeria with destabilising terrorist activities.

The high court in Johannesburg sentenced Okah to serve 12 years for the bombing in Warri, 12 years for the bombing in Abuja and 10 years for making threats.

The 10 year sentence was to run concurrently with the two 12 year sentences‚ meaning Okah would spend 24 years behind bars.

The court set aside the conviction on count 13. The SCA found that Okah conspired‚ planned and instructed people in relation to the execution of the bombing in Abuja whilst in South Africa.

“Simply put‚ there is no need in relation to these counts to examine the ambit of the extra-territorial application of the Act because he orchestrated the Abuja bombing from within the Republic of South Africa.”

The court said Okah was arrested in South Africa and charged locally for acts he committed within the country and a domestic court would obviously have jurisdiction.

It reduced the 12-years sentence from the Warri bombing to eight years.  The 12-year sentence for the Abuja bombing remained in place.

Sunday Tribune gathered that the Nigerian government had written “a measured letter” to the South African government, praising the judicial decision as a big step forward towards removing terrorism from the continent.

A Presidency official also told State House correspondents on condition of anonymity that “South Africa has projected itself an enduring partner to Nigeria in the war against terrorism. When African countries act jointly against terrorism, they send out clear and unambiguous signals that there is no more a place for terrorism on our continent.”

The Presidency source opined that the latest judgment is a victory for the fight against terrorism in all its form and shape, which should be hailed by all well meaning Nigerians and citizens of the world.

“The South African authorities are, therefore, urged to ensure that Mr. Okah is made to face the full wrath of the law for his acts of international terrorism. The scourge of terrorism as perpetrated by the Boko Haram terrorists and the so-called “Niger Delta Avengers or militants” has led to the death of several Nigerians and the monumental destruction of national assets.”

Senior Special Assistant on  Media and Publicity, to the President, Mr Garba Shehu,  confirmed that the Presidency viewed the conviction positively as a serious signal in cleansing Nigeria of terrorism.