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Nigeria: Dokpesi Freed After Questioning

Nigeria’s state security service has freed Raymond Dokpesi, head of former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida’s presidential campaign, after questioning him in connection with the Oct. 1 car bombings in the capital, Abuja.

Raymond Dokpesi

Dokpesi was released “late last night,” Kazeem Afegbua, a spokesman for Babangida, said today by phone from Abuja. “He’s been asked to come back today.”

Dokpesi, founder of Nigeria’s Africa Independent TV and Ray Power FM radio, was held in connection with the blasts that killed 12 people near the venue of the country’s 50th independence anniversary parade, AIT said yesterday, citing Kanti Bello, a senator and another Babangida supporter. He was implicated by two text messages found on the telephone handsets of one of the suspects already in custody, Lagos-based Guardian reported today, citing unidentified officials.

Afegbua said Dokpesi’s questioning won’t affect Babangida’s plan to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan to secure the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party nomination for the presidential election due early next year. “We’re more resolute now, more than ever before,” he said.

Jonathan has promised to crack down on those responsible for the explosions, which he blamed on “a small terrorist group that resides outside” the West African country, and their domestic sponsors.

Nine Arrests

Nine suspects have been arrested over the bomb attacks, Marilyn Ogar, a spokeswoman for the state security service, told reporters at a briefing in Abuja yesterday.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, which is seeking more resources for the country’s oil- producing region, said it carried out the attacks. Henry Okah, a South Africa-based leader of MEND, was charged with terrorism in a Johannesburg court yesterday in connection with the Abuja attacks. Okah denies he committed any “unlawful acts in South Africa or outside the country,” his lawyer, Piet du Plessis, said yesterday.

Attacks by MEND and other armed groups cut more than 28 percent of the country’s oil output between 2006 and 2009, according to Bloomberg data. While the attacks decreased after thousands of fighters accepted a government amnesty last year, MEND refused to disarm, saying its demands were not fully met.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer and the fifth- biggest source of U.S. oil imports. Its low-sulfur sweet crude is favored by many U.S. refiners.

MEND wants states in oil-rich regions to keep all revenue earned from crude sales and pay only taxes to the federal government. The government in Abuja currently takes 87 percent of the revenue and producing states receive 13 percent.