MEND: Okah’s Daughter Tarila Writes Buhari, Demands Father’s Freedom

Tarila Okah, daughter of Mr. Charles Okah, currently remanded at Kuje Prison and standing trial before s the Federal High Court in Abuja for the 2010 Independence Day bomb incident, has written to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to intervene in her father’s matter.

In the letter, made available to SaharaReporters, Tarila wants Buhari to view his father’s situation as an injustice to him.

“Mr. President, I am writing this letter principally to draw your attention, the entire people of Nigeria, and members of the international community to what I perceive as an injustice being wilfully and maliciously meted to my father by the Nigerian state.

“Within the last 10 months, disturbing media reports about his attempt to commit suicide at the Federal High Court in Abuja on October 6, 2015 and his failing health are sad reminders of the harsh reality of my father’s frustration with the judicial system in Nigeria, which is notorious for elastic trials that can drag on for years on end and wear out all parties,” she wrote.

She complained about her father’s protracted trial occasioned either by the absence of the presiding trial judge on account of attending a conference or for other reasons. These, she said, brings disrepute to Nigeria’s country’s justice system.

“For instance, the prosecutor, Alex Izinyon, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, failed to attend one of the trials on a date that had been agreed upon beforehand, instead choosing to attend his child’s graduation ceremony abroad.

“With all due respect, Mr. President, no democratic government anywhere in the world, including Canada where I currently reside, would treat a prisoner’s attempt at suicide as well as the prisoner’s failing health, with disdain.

“Such a peculiar prisoner’s case ought to be concluded speedily by the judiciary.

“Alternatively, such a prisoner of conscience, like my father, should be granted bail.

“However, from all indications, the Nigerian government is clearly insensitive to his plight,” she further wrote.

Tarila said she has with spoken many Nigerian lawyers, who have sufficiently educated her that her Section 162 of the new Criminal Justice Administration Law of the country, her father is entitled to bail, having spent over three years in prison custody. In spite of this, she said, Justice Gabriel Kolawole has twice overruled her father’s applications for bail. Even then, Tarila added, the trial has been crawling. Tarila noted that Justice Kolawole, in 2011, easily granted bail to Senator Ali Ndume, who was standing trial for terrorism as an alleged sponsor of Boko Haram.

“Today, after being re-elected on the platform of your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Ndume is the Majority Leader of Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, the Senate, while my father (who is equally as important to society) is still languishing in prison as an inmate awaiting trial almost six  years after he was first arrested on October 16, 2010, on suspicion of being “Jomo  Gbomo,” the spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND),” her letter said.

Tarila also complained about the position of the media on her father’s culpability otherwise in the Independence Day bomb incident.   At first, she said, Okah was accused of being the spokesperson of MEND. Later, she added,  she was painted as an accomplice to the alleged crime.  “After the media and the Nigerian government realised that ‘Jomo Gbomo’ was still releasing statements on behalf of MEND, even as my father was firmly held in custody,  now,  he is accused of being the mastermind,” she said.

Tarila said, thus far,  the prosecution has relied heavily on ‘witnesses,’ all of whom have provided contradictory statements under cross-examination. She pointed out that at a recent court sitting, a witness from the Department of State Security (DSS), who claimed to be a crime scene investigator, admitted that no evidence was collected at the crime scene. However,  another witness who allegedly ‘sold’ a Mazda car to the second defendant, admitted under cross-examination that the first time he set his eyes on the said car (Exhibit 2) was at the premises of the DSS Abuja Headquarters.

“Without prejudice to his ongoing trial before Justice Gabriel Kolawole, I honestly believe that my father is innocent of the crimes alleged against him. Over the six-year period of his incarceration and trial, his businesses which employed many Nigerians have collapsed; his family is in disarray.

“Years apart, especially under such circumstances, often dissolves the emotional bonds between a husband and his wife, and for my much younger siblings who have now spent more time without their father, there are virtually no emotional bonds to be dissolved,” she said.

Tarila also told Buhari that she will be getting married in a few weeks, an event that will take place without her father’s involvement.  Tarila said she feels a mixture of joy and pain as this day approaches knowing that her father is alive but in captivity.

“Clearly, my siblings and I are being punished vicariously by the Nigerian state for crimes allegedly committed by our father,  which have not been proven beyond reasonable doubt by a court of competent jurisdiction.

“Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the mere act of filing even trumped-up charges carries along with it a strong presumption of guilt, which has led to my father’s conviction in the court of public opinion and has also led to the abuse of his fundamental human rights.

“I know that some Nigerians, on reading this open letter, will attack me for daring to appeal for my father’s freedom, but my message to those compatriots is simple: it is high time we focused on finding the real perpetrators,” she challenged.

Tarila concluded by calling in Buhari to take his administration’ fight against corruption beyond financial crimes to judicial misdemeanours.

Culled from SR

Tarila Okah’s wedding photoshoot

Tarila Okah