“MEND not Responsible for the 50th Anniversary Abuja Bombs” – President Jonathan


President Goodluck Jonathan has said that terrorists were responsible for the bomb blasts that rocked Abuja yesterday contrary to claims that the act was perpetrate by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Mr. Jonathan made the claim in his opening address at the colloquium, organised today in Abuja by the ECOWAS Parliament, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of some African countries.

“What happened yesterday was a terrorist act and MEND was just used as a straw; MEND is not a terrorist group,” the President said.

“The Niger Delta people are aware of the government’s noble efforts to assuage the suffering and deprivation in that region.

“I am from the Niger Delta, my father’s house is few metres from an oil-well, so nobody can claimto be a Niger Deltan than myself.”

MEND, yesterday, claimed responsibility for the attacks. A few minutes before the blasts, the group sent an email to journalists and media companies warning of the impending violence.

“With due respect to all invited guests, dignitaries and attendees of the 50th independence anniversary of Nigeria being held today, Friday, October 1, 2010 at the Eagle Square Abuja, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is asking everyone to begin immediate evacuation of the entire area within the next 30 minutes. This warning expires after 10.30Hrs,” MEND spokesperson Jomo Gbomo said in the mail.

However, Mr. Jonathan has said this was a diversionary tact by the real perpetrators of the crime. He argued that no Niger Delta group would carry out such an act as it would affect the region’s chance for development.

“It is erroneous to think that my people who have been agitating for good living will deliberately blow up the opportunity they have now,” Mr. Jonathan said.

He also said the country’s security agencies will be restructured to become proactive to guarantee the safety of lives and property.

“I pray for the souls of those who died to attain peace and fervently pray for those who sustain injuries in the blast to be healed,” he said.

……..Three persons arrested over Abuja bombs

CNN report

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Three people have been arrested in Nigeria and are being questioned in connection with the Friday blasts that killed 12 and injured 50 in the nation’s capital, a spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan said Saturday.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, known as MEND, claimed responsibility for the attack in Abuja and said Saturday it had given the Nigerian government advance warning.

“The irresponsible attitude of the government security forces is to blame for the loss of lives,” MEND said in a Saturday statement.

The group reported it had warned Nigerian security forces five days prior to the attack.

“The security forces were also warned one full hour to the first bomb blast ahead of the general alert sent to the media and told to steer the public from all parked cars which was not done,” the statement continued.

The attack came as the West African country celebrated 50 years of independence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed for blood donations to assist the wounded.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan later called the action a terror attack that was designed to “disrupt” the anniversary, said presidential spokesman Imo Niboro. But he said it had nothing to do with Niger Delta issues or MEND.

MEND, which represents militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta, is an umbrella organization of several rebel groups. It has been battling the government for years over fairer distribution of the country’s oil wealth.

MEND said Henry Okah, who many say is an influential member of the group, had been harassed by authorities in South Africa, where he lives.

“Okah has never been involved in any MEND operations but has always been blamed for every attack which is strange to us,” MEND’s statement said.

“They (Nigerian security forces) were given 5 days prior notice (about the attack) which led to the harassment of Henry Okah on Thursday, September 30 in South Africa,” the group said.

Nigeria ex-rebel leader Okah arrested after Abuja blast—–BBC

Ex-Mend leader Henry Okah, undated file photo Ex-Mend leader Henry Okah denied his faction carried out the Abuja bombings

A former leader of the Nigerian militant group Mend has been arrested in connection with two blasts on Friday in Abuja which killed 12 people.

Henry Okah was arrested in South Africa, said a spokeswoman for the Nigerian secret police, Marilyn Ogar.

However, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said “terrorists” and not Mend were responsible for the explosions.

The State Security Service confirmed it had been warned by foreign intelligence services that an attack was imminent.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), which says it is fighting for a fairer distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth, said it carried out the car bombings not far from the official celebrations.

President Jonathan, who is himself from the Niger Delta, did not elaborate on who he believed carried out Friday’s bombings.

But Mr Okah, who leads a faction of Mend, told the BBC on Friday his group was not responsible.

The BBC’s Caroline Duffield in Lagos says Mr Okah has barely been heard of outside Nigeria but within the country, he is notorious.

Mend signed an agreement with the government last year, in which former fighters were offered an amnesty and small amounts of cash in return for handing in their weapons.

Mr Okah, known as the gunrunner of Mend, is widely believed to lead a splinter group opposed to the amnesty, our correspondent says.

His friends expect him to be charged on Monday.

Mend sent a warning shortly before the blasts, saying “several explosive devices have been successfully planted in and around the venue by our operatives working inside the government security services”.


Martin Plaut BBC Africa analyst

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan says “terrorists” and not Mend were behind the attacks. But analysts suggest the information points towards one of the many factions active in the Niger Delta.

Mend itself said the bombings were to “draw attention to the plight of the people of the Niger Delta”.

However, Mend leader Henry Okah, who lives in South Africa, denies involvement. His house was raided by the police early on Thursday.

“They informed me that they were acting on the instance of the Nigerian government, which had petitioned the South African government that I was manufacturing bombs in my home and my home was a warehouse for weapons which I was shipping to the Niger delta,” Mr Okah told the BBC.

The British Foreign Office issued warnings to all travellers to Nigeria. Clearly there were straws in the wind that the intelligence services were aware of.

It added: “There is nothing worth celebrating after 50 years of failure. For 50 years, the people of the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen from them.”

Mend later accused officials of acting “irresponsibly by ignoring our forewarning”.

British dignitaries stayed away from Friday’s parade marking 50 years of Nigerian independence, raising questions about how much foreign intelligence services knew about threats to the event.

The two bombs went off about five minutes apart. Police said the bombs appeared timed to do most damage to those who responded to the first blast.

A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson confirmed it had “received indications of a heightened security risk” and took immediate action to update travel advice after the Mend warning on Friday morning.

The Queen’s representative, the Duke of Gloucester, had been scheduled to attend the parade but did not do so. His office declined to comment on why he withdrew. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also did not attend.

Since the Nigerian government and Mend signed an amnesty agreement last year, incidents of violence and kidnapping in the Delta have fallen.

However, many fighters complain the government has failed to deliver its end of the deal.

Oil production has increased since the amnesty came into effect – from about 1.6 million barrels per day to about two million now.

Most of Mend’s attacks have targeted pipelines and supply terminals in the south.