Charles T. Okah Single Cell Block Kuje Prison Abuja, Nigeria.
His Eminence Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie c/o Catholic Church Secretariat Lagos, Nigeria.
October 1 2010 Bomb Blast Setup and Government Double Standard
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I hope this letter meets you
well. The reasons I choose to direct this letter to you are that I am a
Catholic and you are an old boy of my alma mater, St. Gregory’s College,
I write from Kuje Prison Abuja where two other Catholics
and I have been languishing in solitary confinement for 2 years on
trumped-up charges relating to the October 1, 2010 bomb attack claimed
by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
name is Charles Tonbra Okah, aka Billy Bones. On October 16, 2010 my
residence in Apapa GRA was invaded by operatives of the State Security
Services on the warrant that I was the suspected spokesman for MEND
using the pseudonym “Jomo Gbomo.” My eldest son, visiting from the
United States where he attends the University of Kansas (KU) was also
At the SSS Headquarters Abuja where we were flown to
blindfolded with our legs and hands bound, my ‘cooperation’ was
solicited for something completely different to my surprise. My captors
threw me a lifeline; offering me our freedom and a lucrative contract in
exchange for false testimony against my younger brother Henry, who is
resident in South Africa. I was to write a false statement claiming to
have been told by Henry about the bomb plot and naming the following
persons as his conspirators: Former Head of State, General Ibrahim
Babangida, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, Chief Timipre
Sylva, and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. I bluntly refused.
pressure on me, I was told that my son would be implicated in the bomb
matter, my containers of legitimate imports then at the Tin Can Port
would be impounded and my business destroyed. I still did not budge,
tossing their lifeline back with royal disdain.
realized I was not going to connive in their scheme, they became formal
and reverted to the main reason for my arrest. I was asked for the MEND
password which I told them I did not know. They bound me in a chair,
took off my trousers and clamped a device to my penis. My legs were then
put inside a basin of water. The device when turned on passed a high
voltage of electricity to my body and I lost consciousness. This was on
Monday October 18 at about 6pm. When I regained consciousness, I
discovered I was at the National Hospital emergency room. I remember the
doctors asking why I had trauma marks on my chest where the SSS doctor
performed Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). The SSS operatives were
evasive in answering questions at the hospital. That night I was
released and taken to rest for the night at the State House Clinic. That
was the last time a torture was carried out on me.
My son was
eventually released after Mr. Femi Falana visited in the company of my
wife after a month of being denied access to a lawyer. However, my
containers have been impounded up to date and my bank account frozen.
SSS stopped asking about the MEND password after Jomo Gbomo made
another statement while I was in their custody but refused to still let
me go because I did not cooperate earlier with them. Meanwhile in the
ongoing trial in South Africa, Henry is accused of being the same Jomo
Gbomo by the same people who say I am JG.
Double Standard in Kuje Prison:
December 24, 2010 we were remanded in Kuje prison as a result of our
application to be removed from the SSS detention cell. Unknown to us,
the SSS passed instructions from “above” to the prison authorities to
carry out “special treatment” in order to stampede us into a trial
towards conviction. For 2 years we have been locked up in solitary
confinement, are not allowed to exercise or get sunlight outside and are
forced to sleep on the floor when bunk beds are available. Even a court
order by Justice Gabriel Kolawole to the prison for a change in our
confinement style was ignored after it was superseded by an ‘order from
In late 2011, while locked up inside our cell block,
prison officials clothed in protective apparel, face masks and gloves
carried out fumigation without opening us to wait outside. Our protests
fell on deaf ears and by the time they were finished we were in
distress. The Youth Corper doctor on call tried her best within her
limits to the emergency she was confronted with. The poisonous gas and
barbaric action reminiscent of the Nazi concentration camp infamous gas
chambers, eventually led to the death of one Francis Osuwo, aka Gboko,
also roped into this case by the SSS and a man I have never met before.
Interestingly, the four persons in detention were strangers to each
other except for one Obi Nwabueze who is a family friend and close
associate of Henry.
The fumigant whose chemical constituent were
never relayed to us have affected my neurological system and I have been
on a daily prescription of strong neurological medication prescribed by
a neurologist of the National Hospital, Professor Bwala.
the Boko Haram suspects at Kuje prison are allowed to worship in the
prison mosque, we have never set foot in the prison chapel. They are
also enjoying privileges such as cable television, radio, liberty to
move within the prison walls, bunk beds to sleep on and phone calls to
their families. We are denied all of the above.
When I asked the
current Controller of FCT Command the reason for the disparity, he said
“the fear of Boko Haram is the beginning of wisdom.” He further said the
Moslem community was concerned about their welfare in custody.
Double Standard in the Court:
in the Courts where justice is supposed to be blind, the double
standard is glaring. While Senator Ndume, accused of being a financier
to Boko Haram was given bail by the same Judge presiding over our case,
we have been denied bail.
I understand that this Senator was
permitted by the same court to travel on his religious obligation to
Mecca for the lesser Hajj while we are refused from attending mass in a
chapel less than 50 meters from our cell block.
The court is
willing to permit the Senator approval to travel abroad for his medical
check if he can provide proof that such check up is not done locally.
Meanwhile, I have been denied my application to go on a compulsory
checkup which in my case is mandatory for a kidney donor, having donated
my left kidney to my mother 30 years ago.
Our cases have been
adjourned repeatedly for cruelly long durations. The last time I
appeared in court was March 2012 and the next adjourned date is January
31. 2013, that is if that date will not be shifted again under a flimsy
All we ask is for a free and fair justice from an
independent Judiciary that should release us instead of holding us as
scapegoats over an obvious power show. While this government continues
holding us hostage, our families are becoming destitute.
rights to freely worship as Catholics is being infringed by the state
who have more respect for Islam when all religions should be treated
Double Standards in the Polity:
National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd.) was quoted as saying
that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan has the phone
numbers of suspected Boko Haram sponsors. Later the Inspector General of
Police said certain individuals had been put on a “watch list” as
suspected Boko Haram sponsors.
Now the big question is why did
the government not simply have our phone numbers and put us also on its
‘watch list” while we move about freely? They did not hesitate to arrest
us, clamp us on trumped-up charges and detain us on flimsy excuses.
They did not merely talk, they took action even in South Africa where my
brother was arrested since 2010. Is there a better word to describe
this other than hypocrisy?
The same government eager to negotiate
with Boko Haram who claimed responsibility for over 100 attacks where
Catholics have suffered the brunt, have refused to negotiate with MEND
and continue to delude themselves that all is well.
this government expect Boko Haram to unmask it leaders and negotiate
when they can see that perceived leaders and supporters of MEND are
being persecuted and jailed?
I welcome a fact-finding visit from the Church in the company of credible Human Rights groups to verify our allegations.
the two occasions Kuje Prison was visited by the Bishop of Abuja during
the Christmas of 2010 and 2011, he was surreptitiously steered away
from where were we are held hostage and I believe he has no idea of what
is going in inside Kuje prison.
Our prayers is that leaders of
our Churches will be more sensitive and proactive in politics of the
land that touches the lifes of their followers and not leave delicate
issues solely in the hands of corrupt and selfish politicians, and
majority of the population rid of a “Potiphar” mentality who believe
lies when told by SSS.