Nigerian Army and MEND’s war of words over arms sale

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The Nigerian Army Thursday dismissed MEND’s claims that it never bought the weapons for which an Army Major and five others bagged life jail terms following a court martial on Tuesday.

According to a statement e-mailed to journalists Wednesday night, MEND said it ’’never got its weapons from the Nigerian military except for those seized during fighting or those abandoned by soldiers’’. It also condemned what it called the ’double standards’ by the Nigerian government, saying ’’if the men supplied weapons to militants and MEND as claimed, the charge ought to have read treason and terrorism as charged on Henry Okah’’.

Official reaction

Reacting to the claims, contained in the statement by MEND, the Nigerian Army spokesman, Brig Gen Emeka Onwuamaegbu, said based on the facts presented at the trial, the source, buyer and the destination of the weapons were well spelt out.

Gen. Onwuamaegbu said that there was no doubt that Sunny Okah, believed to be the younger brother of MEND leader Henry Okah, bought the arms from the convicted military personnel and sent them to the creeks for the use of militants

Okah himself is being tried for treason and gun-running charges at a federal high court in Nigeria’s northern city of Jos.

“Henry Okah’s brother was the one who was arrested. He was the one who was buying the weapons. After buying the weapons, he was the one sending them to his brother who was arming the militants. He was the star prosecution witness. So, if MEND is denying the source of these weapons, his brother has not denied he bought them from the convicted Army personnel or that he sent the weapons to them,” the spokesman said.

According to the Nigerian Army, some 7,000 assorted weapons worth 100 million naira (US$850,000) were sold to the militants by the convicted soldiers over a six-year period ending December 2006.

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