THE MEETING OF THE SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL
ABURI ACCRA GHANA
4-5 JANUARY 1967
PRINTED BY THE GOVERNMENT PRINTER
I Introduction … … … … … … 1
II The Aburi Meeting … … … … … 4
III Implementation of Aburi Agreements … 8
IV Bad Faith of Lt.-Col. Gowon … … .. 16
I ,,Official Minutes of the Supreme Military Council
– held in Ghana on 4th and 5th January, 1967 … 19
Annexure A: Agenda … … … … … 28
Annexure B: Declaration on Use of Force .29
Annexure C: Statement on the Supreme Military
Council … … … … … … 30
Annexure D: Communique … … … 31
Annexure E: Second and Final Communique … 32
II Address by the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, His Excellency Lt.-Col. C. Odumegwu Ojukwu at a Press Conference held on Friday, 6th January,
1967 … … … … … … 33
III Report of the Meeting of the Law Officers of the
Federation held in the office of the Solicitor-
General, Mid-Western Nigeria, Benin City, on
Saturday and Sunday the 14th and 15th January,
1967 … …- … … … . 37
IV “Comments on the ‘Accra decisions’ of the Meeting of the Supreme Military Council” by the Permanent Secretaries of the Lagos Government ..
THE MEETING OF THE SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL
AT ABURI, GHANA, JANUARY, 1967
ON 17 JANUARY, 1966, the former civilian Federal Government of Nigeria handed over power to the Armed Forces. Major-General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi as the General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army assumed the headship of the Federal Military Government and established the Supreme Military Council. Subsequently, on 24 May, 1966, he promulgated the Decree No. 34 putting into effect the decisions of the Supreme Military Council to establish a centralized administration for the country. Six days later widespread violence and riots broke out in Northern Nigeria. Thousands of Easterners were massacred.
2. On 29 July, 1966, a group of Northern Nigerian Army personnel kidnapped and, as was later revealed, murdered Major-General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, the Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government. At the same time they attempted to annihilate all Eastern Nigerian Army Officers and men at Ibadan, Abeokuta and Ikeja in Western Nigeria and at Kaduna, Zaria and Kano in Northern Nigeria. Nearly 200 officers and men of Eastern Nigeria origin were slaughtered. Those who escaped but later returned to their posts following assurances of safety were also murdered. The pogrom was soon extended to Eastern Nigerian civilians resident in Northern Nigeria, Lagos and the West; and by September, 1966, the killings and molestations carried out by the combined forces of Northern Nigerian soldiers and civilians had assumed such large proportions that Easterners everywhere outside the East sought protection within their home Region.
3. All these massacres, which claimed the lives of over 30,000 Easterners, jolted the conscience and aroused the indignation of the world. They were also fraught with tragic consequences for the country. The bond of comradeship which had previously held the Nigerian Army together completely severed. Mutual fear, suspicion and hatred have prevailed to such an extent that Army Officers and men Eastern Nigeria origin cannot now co-exist with those of Northern Nigeria origin. The massive movement of population which has resulted from these tragic events has also posed serious economic and social problems.
4.The fleeing Easterners had abandoned their homes, businesses for and employments and swelled the population of Eastern Nigeria by den nearly two million. As they returned a potentially explosive situation arose in the East and in consequence the Government of Eastern Nigeria was obliged to ask non-Easterners residing in the East to leave to the Region in the interest of their own safety. The flight of Easterners has also radically altered the machinery and structure of the Federal Government, for Easterners have been forcibly excluded from participating in the Federal Government, Federal Statutory Corporations and the other Federal Organizations outside the Eastern Region.
5.The disintegration of the Army and the mass movement of population, coupled with the necessary measures taken to prevent further friction, conflict and killing, have intensified Regional loyalties and made it impossible today for any one person to command the loyalty of all sections of the country.
6. It has been the view of the Government and people of the East
that a solution can and must be found quickly to the country’s present problems and in doing so full cognizance must be taken of the stark realities of the present in order to avoid future conflict and bloodshed. The East has accordingly co-operated with the rest of the country in efforts to find a realistic solution. But progress in this direction has been frustrated by incessant exhibition of bad faith on the part of the Military Leaders in Lagos and the North. A few examples will serve to illustrate this.
7. The disappearance of the Supreme Commander on 29 July, 1966, demanded that the next senior Military Officer should temporarily assume command of the Army and the headship of the Federal Military Government until the Supreme Military Council should determine the leadership of the Army and the country. But on 1 August, 1966,
Lt.-Col.Yakubu Gowon, Chief of Staff, Army Headquarters, announced that he had assumed the Offices of Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government, although there were at least half-a- dozen Military Officers who were senior to him. The Military Government of Eastern Nigeria found it impossible to recognize this seizure of power; nevertheless it was prepared to co-operate with Lt.-Col. Gowon in order to prevent further bloodshed.
8. On 9 August, a meeting of representatives of the Military -Governors of the East, Mid-West, West, North and Lt.-Col. Gowon met and unanimously reached agreement on five issues which were vital
for reducing the tension then existing in the country. The first demonstration of bad faith on the part of Lt.-Col. Gowon was his non-implementation of a number of these agreements which concerned him, particularly the one stipulating that soldiers should be repatriated to their Regions of origin and confined to barracks. Lt.-Col. Gowon
had also agreed with the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria that soldiers returning to the North from the East and vice versa should carry their arms and some quantity of ammunition for self-defence but that these arms and ammunition should be returned to their original armoury immediately the soldiers had reached their destination. Eastern soldiers returning from the North were not even given arms and ammunition for self-protection as stipulated. Furthermore, when Northern soldiers arrived at their destination they failed to return the arms and ammunition given to them in the East.
9. Another agreement reached on 9 August, was that a conference of Regional delegations should be held to recommend in broad outline the future form of political association for Nigeria. The Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference duly met from 12 September to 3 October when it adjourned for three weeks. By the time it rose it had reached a measure of agreement on a number of issues. But while the Conference was still in session, Northern soldiers with the aid of civilians massacred thousands of Eastern Nigerians in the North and some even in Lagos,
the venue of the Conference.
10. As the date of resumption of the Ad Hoc ConstitutionalConference approached the question of the safety of Eastern delegates came to the fore. The Eastern Nigeria Military Government insisted on the immediate implementation of the agreement of 9 August whereby all military personnel were to be posted to barracks within
their respective Regions of origin. The Eastern position was unanimously supported by the Leaders of Thought Conference of Western Nigeria. But the proposal was not acceptable to Lt.-Col. Gowon, and without further consultations with all the Military Governors he dismissed the Constitutional Conference on 30 November, 1966.
At the same time he declared that he was appointing a “drafting committee” to draw up a constitution on lines which would be suitable to him, and threatened to mobilize enough forces to deal with anyone who opposed his will.
11. The Military Government of Eastern Nigeria thought that Gowon events were taking a dangerous turn and that it was essential for the Supreme Military Council, which had not been convoked since 29 July,
to meet. Since the situation in the country made it impossible for the Military Governor of the East to attend a meeting in any area occupied by Northern troops, various suggestions of alternative venues were put forward by him. So anxious indeed was he to attend the meeting that he purchased an executive plane to facilitate his journey to any acceptable venue. For long, however, his suggestions were treated with levity by Lt.-Col. Gowon, but eventually it was unanimously agreed that the meeting should hold outside Nigeria.
THE ABURI MEETING
12. The Supreme Military Council subsequently met at Aburi, Ghana, on 4 and 5 January, 1967. It had been recognized by the Military leaders that the meeting would:
(a) resolve the question of leadership within the army, restore the chain of command which had become badly disrupted, and examine the crisis of confidence amongst the officers and soldiers which had rendered it impossible for them intermingle;
(b) evolve ways and means of carrying on the responsibility of administering the country until a new constitution had been determined; and
(c) tackle realistically the problems of displaced persons. These considerations were reflected in the agenda which was agreed upon by members of the Supreme Military Council (see Appendix I Annexure A).
13. 0n the first day of the meeting the Military Governor of the East put forward a resolution, which the meeting endorsed, calling -on the military leaders to renounce the use of force as a means of settling the Nigerian crisis. It was this resolution which was embodied in a communique issued by the Council at the end of the first day of
the meeting (see Appendix I Annexure B).
14. After deliberating anxiously and seriously on the reorganization, administration and control of the Army the meeting reached aft agreements on the following lines (see Appendix I for the Official Minutes of the Conference):
“(a) Army to be governed by the Supreme Military Council under a chairman to be known as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Federal Military Government.
“(b) Establishment of a Military Headquarters comprising equal representation from the Regions and headed by a Chief of Staff.
“(c) Creation of Area Commands corresponding to existing Regions and under the charge of Area Commanders.
“(d) Matters of policy, including appointments and promotions to top executive posts in the Armed Forces and the Police, to be dealt with by the Supreme Military Council.
“(e) During the period of the Military Government, Military Governors will have control over Area Commands for internal security.
“(f) Creation of a Lagos Garrison including Ikeja Barracks.”
15. It was further agreed by the Supreme Military Council that a Military Committee comprising representatives of the Regions should meet within two weeks from the date of receiving instructions to prepare statistics which would show:
“(a) Present strength of Nigerian Army;
“(b) Deficiency in each sector of each unit;
“(c) The size appropriate for the country and each Area Command;
“(d) Additional requirement for the country and each Area Command.”
Pending the completion of the work of the Committee, it was agreed by the Council that further recruitment of soldiers throughout the country should cease.
16. On the implementation of the agreement reached by representatives of the Military Leaders on 9 August, 1966, the Council reaffirmed the principle that Army personnel of Northern origin should return to the North from the West. In order to meet the security needs of the West it was agreed that a crash programme of recruitment and training was necessary but that the details should be examined after the Military Committee had finished its work. –
17. It was in the course of discussing the reorganization of the Army that the crucial issue of the assumption by Lt.-Col. Cowon of the offices of Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government arose. The Governor of the East, in explaining why it was impossible for him to recognize Lt.-Col. Gowon as Supreme
Commander, pointed out that the fate of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi, the legitimate Supreme Commander, was yet unknown and so no one could succeed him; that in the absence of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi whoever was the next senior officer in rank should manage the affairs of the country; and that the East was never party to any decision to appoint Lt.-Col. Gowon Supreme Commander. Subsequently, Lt.-Col. Gowon volunteered information regarding the murder of the MajorGeneral and his host, Lt.-Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, on 29 July, 1966. The Supreme Military Council decided to accord the late military leaders the full honours due to them.
18. The Supreme Military Council recognized that with the demise of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi no other Military Leader could command the support of the entire Nigerian Army and that a new arrangement was necessary for an effective administration of the whole country. The Council also took cognizance of the fact that extreme centralization had been the bane of the Military Regime in the past and that it was essential to re-define the powers of the Federal Military Government vis-a-vis the Regional Military Governments in order to ensure public confidence and co-operation.
19. When the Supreme Military Council resumed its deliberations at Aburi on 5 January, after members had spent the night at their various posts with their advisers, it proceeded to discuss the powers of the Federal Military Government vis-a-vis the Regional Governments. -The upshot was that the Council re-affirmed its previous decisions on the reorganization of the Army and also took the following additional decisions: –
“(ii) On appointments to certain posts.
The following appointments must be approved by the Supreme Military Council:
(a) Diplomatic and Consular posts.
(b) Senior posts in the Armed Forces and the Police.
(c) Super-scale Federal Civil Service and Federal Corporation posts.
“(iii) On the functioning of the Supreme Military Council Any decisions affecting the whole country must be determined by the Supreme Military Council. Where a meeting is not possible such a matter must be referred to Military Governors for comment and concurrence.
“(iv) That all the Law Officers of the Federation should meet in Benin on the 14 January and list all the Decrees and provisions of Decrees concerned so that they may be repealed not later than 21 January, if possible.
“(v) That for at least the next six months, there should be purely a Military Government, having nothing to do whatsoever with politicians.”
20. The next item discussed was the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference which Lt.-Col. Gowon had unilaterally dissolved on 30 November, 1966. The Council agreed that the Conference should resume sitting as soon as practicable to continue from where it left off, and that the question of implementing the unanimous recommendations of the Conference in September, 1966 should be considered at a later meeting of the Supreme Military Council.
21. Finally, on the problem of displaced persons, the relevant section of the Official Minutes of the Council reads as follows:
“(a) on rehabilitation, that Finance Permanent Secretaries should resume their meeting within two weeks and submit recommendations and that each Region should send three representatives to the meeting;
“(b) on employment and recovery of property, that civil servants and Corporation staff (including daily paid employees) who have not been absorbed should continue to be paid their full salaries until 31 March, 1967 provided they have not got alternative employment, and that the Military Governors of the East, West and Mid-West should send representatives (Police Commissioners) to meet and discuss the problem of recovery of property left behind by displaced persons.”
22. On his return from the Aburi meeting the Military Governor of the East held a press conference to reassure Easterners who had considerable apprehension about the meeting and its outcome. (For the full text of the Military Governor’s press statement see Appendix 2.) He emphasized at this conference that the Aburi meeting had been worthwhile and gave the assurance that provided the agreements reached were ~implemented much progress would have been made towards relieving tension and banishing fear within the country.
IMPLEMENTATION OF ABURI AGREEMENTS
23. The Military Government of Eastern Nigeria was represented at the meeting of the Solicitors-General held in Benin on 14 and 15 January. (For the Report of the Law Officers see Appendix III). The Eastern delegation received full briefing in the light of the Aburi decisions to which its views strictly adhered. Since some other delegations had not been fully briefed it became necessary to refer a number of issues back to the Supreme Military Council. One of the most important was section 69 of the Nigerian Constitution in respect of which the Report of the Law Officers’ meeting reads—
“As regards the powers of the Federal Military Government
vis-a-vis the Regional Government, all the Law Officers, excepting those from the East, are of the view that effect would be fully given to the Accra decision in this regard by repealing section 3 of
Decree No. 1 and restoring the provisions of the suspended section 69 with necessary modifications whereby the Federal Military Government will now have power to make Decrees to the following extent:
(a) With respect to the Federal Territory of Lagos, on any matter whatever;
(b) With respect to the whole of Nigeria, or any part thereof (other than Lagos), on
matters included in the Exclusive Legislative List and the Concurrent Legislative List; provided that where there is an inconsistency between a Federal Decree on a Concurrent matter and a Regional Edict on the same matter, the Federal Decree will prevail.
“Under this arrangement the Military Governors will have no power to make Edicts on matters on the Exclusive Legislative List but will have powers to make Edicts on matters in the Concurrent Legislative List and on residual matters.”
“The view of the Eastern Law Officers is that the introduction of the element of Regional consent in Federal legislation must necessarily modify the position as it was before 17 January in the sense that there will be a lacuna in the legislative activities of both the Supreme Military Council and the Regions where consent is not given. It appears, therefore, to be the intention of the Accra decision that such a lacuna should be filled by the Regions. With respect to matters on the Concurrent Legislative List, it is their view that the Regions can legislate in relation to Federal Law.”
24. The views of the Eastern Nigerian Law Officers quoted above from the Solicitors-General Report clearly reflect the spirit and letter of the Aburi decision on this matter. One of the main areas of friction between the Regions and the Central Government during the last civilian regime concerns the exercise of powers over matters on the Concurrent List. The controversial issue was the provision whereby a law passed by the Federal Government superseded any other law passed by a Regional Government on the same subject. This problem was fully recognized by most delegations to the meeting of the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference in Lagos in September, 1966. It was the objective of the Aburi meeting to eliminate such sources of friction, hence the decision that “the legislative and executive authority of the Federal Military Government should remain in the Supreme Military Council (not in one man) to which any decision affecting the whole country (whether on the Exclusive or Concurrent List) shall be referred for determination provided that where it is not possible for a meeting to be held the matter requiring determination must be referred to Military Governors for their comment and concurrence.” There can be no doubt that this modified the position before 17 January, 1966, when the Military Regime took over, and that it provides a new governmental arrangement needed for Nigeria “in view of what the country has experienced in the past year (1966).”
25. Since the receipt of the Report of the Law Officers by the members of the Supreme Military Council, the Military Governor of Western Nigeria has vindicated the stand of the Eastern Nigerian Law Officers as regards section 69. He commented—
“In the light of what has been stated at pages two to three of the
Report, it is considered that only the Supreme Military Council should have power to make laws on matters on the Exclusive Legislative List. As regards matters on the Concurrent Legislative List, it is felt that the exercise of powers concurrently by the Supreme Military Council and the Military Governors of the Regions with respect to the same subjects could lead to conflict or friction of a type which ought to be avoided under the present Military Regime. It seems that one sure way to avoid such conflict or friction would be by making new provisions whereby the Supreme Military Council will have power to make laws on matters on the Concurrent Legislative List in respect of Lagos only whilst the Military Governors will have power to make laws by Edict on those matters in respect of their Regions.”
26. The Law Officers held divergent views on such questions as the machinery for the meetings of the Supreme Military Council and the manner in which the concurrence of the Military Governors, as members of the Council, should be signified in the making of Decrees. On these questions the Military Governor, West, has again vindicated the stand of the East when he commented as follows:
“…a meeting of the Supreme Military Council will be properly
constituted and can properly be held if any Military Governor is
absent, but as agreed at Accra, any Military Governor not
present will be given the opportunity to express his comments
on, and concurrence with, the decisions taken in his absence
before they are implemented.
“(b) Where all the Military Governors are present at a meeting of the Supreme Military Council decisions should now be taken only with the concurrence or unanimity of all the Military Governors. Decisions by majority would have been the best thing in ordinary circumstances but in the present situation in the country, one has to admit that such a rule could lead to open disagreements and conflicts and so to the revival of tension which everything must be done now to reduce.”
27.Again, the Eastern Military Government readily sent representatives to the meeting of the Committee of Army Officers at Benin which, as was agreed at Aburi, would discuss matters relating to the quantity of arms and ammunition available in each Unit of the Army in each Region and in the unallocated stores, as well as the sharing out of such arms equitably to the various Commands. The Committee – -could not progress with its work for lack of co-operation from the representatives of Lt.-Col.Gowon.
28. While the Military Government of Eastern Nigeria has been making a determined and sincere effort to act according to the spirit and
decisions of Aburi, Lt.-Col. Gowon has
deliberately set out to ignore both.
Ten days after the Aburi meeting the Gowon
Government issued a booklet, entitled Nigeria 1966, parts of which attacked and libelled
the Military Governor of the East. The booklet also contained tendentious statements the sole aim of which could only be to inflame passions and cause disaffection within the country. This booklet was launched in New York, London and other capitals of the world.
29. Worse still, three weeks after the meeting, at a press conference which he held on 26 January, 1967, Lt.-Col. Gowon reproduced a truncated and distorted version of the agreements reached at Aburi. The source of Lt.-Col. Gowon’s statement was not the official minutes of the meeting, which had been prepared by his own officials, but a hostile commentary on the Aburi decisions prepared afterwards by people with vested interests in Lagos—men who were neither members of the Supreme Military Council nor were present at the meeting. These people were in a position to advise Lt.-Col. Gowon before the meeting since the agenda for the Aburi meeting were agreed to well beforehand. Furthermore, most of the major decisoins at Aburi were taken on the second day of the meeting after members had spent the night at their respective stations, consulting with their advisers.
30. A few days after Aburi some Permanent Secretaries in Lagos met to criticize the decisions reached by the Supreme Military Council, the highest authority in the land. With regard to the reorganization of the Army they objected to the new title of “Commander-in-Chief” on the grounds that—
“(1) it would be a subtle way of either abolishing the post of Supreme Commander or declaring it vacant to be filled by unanimous decision of the Supreme
Military Council… and
(2) The Accra decision transfers the
Executive Authority of the Federal Military Government from the Head of the Federal Military Government and Supreme Commander (in accordance with Decree No. 1) to the Supreme Military Council. The implication of this is that the Commander-in-Chief would have no power of control or dismissal over the Regional Governors…”
On the establishment of Military Headquarters, the Permanent Secretaries stated that “the establishment of Military Headquarters with equal representatives from the Regions headed by a Chief of Staff amounts to confederation”. They made no effort to define what they meant by a “confederation”. As regards the creation of Area Commands the Permanent Secretaries took exception to what they considered to be “dividing up the Nigerian Army into Regional ones, without links with or effective unifying control over the Army by the ‘Supreme Commander’.” This advice, which was clearly motivated by selfish interests, ignored the anxiety of the Nigerian public for a workable and effective settlement of the crisis and a quick return to normal conditions. In strict compliance with this advice, however, Lt.-Col. Gowon, true to his well-known characteristic of ignoring solemn agreements, made a volte-face at his press conference. On the issue of the reorganization of the Army he declared—
“We reviewed the situation in- the Nigerian Army and we all
agreed that there should be one Nigerian Army under a unified command as at present. We recognized that in the context of the events of 1966, the most practical way of achieving this aim is to organize the Army into area commands. The preponderance of T the army personnel in each command will be drawn from the re indigenes of that area. Each area command will be under an P Area Commander who will take operational instructions from the Military Headquarters which will be directly under me as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Under the proposal, the Military Governors can use the area command for internal security purposes but this will normally be done with the express permission of the Head of the Federal Military Government. We definitely decided tit against Regional armies.”
As could be seen from the Minutes of the Aburi Conference, no decision was taken that the Area Commands should be directly under Lt.-Col. Gowon “as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces” nor that the Military Governors should obtain his permission to use the Area Commands for internal security.
31. Again, instead of emphasizing that the Supreme Military
Council, in recognition of the fact that no single government in the
Federation has its writ running throughout the country, has introduced the element of Regional consent into the process of reaching its decisions, Lt.-Col. Gowon merely stated—
“We, however, agreed to return to the status quo ante 17 January, 1966, and this is in keeping with my earlier public pronouncements that Decrees or parts of Decrees which tended towards over- centralization should be repealed. We will continue to operate the existing Federal Constitution and the Federal system of government until a new Constitution is drawn up. A decree is now under preparation which will give effect to the decision to return to the Constitutional position before 17 January, 1966…”
32. Turning to the problem of displaced persons the Permanent Secretaries suggested:
“(a) when the meeting of Permanent Secretaries of the Ministries of Finance resumes, the principle of revenue allocation should not be discussed as it was not mentioned in the minutes of the Accra meeting.
“(b) the decision to continue to pay salaries till the end of March, 1967, does not take into consideration economic factors which are linked with it . . . Secondly, it does not make sense to include daily paid workers among those whose salaries should continue to be paid. The decision should therefore be reconsidered.”
The insistence of the Permanent Secretaries that “the principle of revenue allocation should not be discussed” at any future meetings of Permanent Secretaries, Finance, is clear evidence that they intend to strangle the East economically since they are well aware of the mass return of nearly two million Easterners to the Region, the loss of £20,000,000 in property by refugees from the North and the forcible
exclusion of Easterners from the Federal Civil Service, the Federal Statutory Corporations, the Foreign Service and other Federal institutions. – Surely they cannot expect the East to survive economically in these circumstances under the existing system of revenue allocation. Moreover, whatever economic factors are linked with the Supreme Military Council’s- decisions on this matter it is patent that the displaced employees are in no way responsible for their present plight. And the inequitable treatment suggested by the Permanent Secretaries in respect of daily paid workers can only remind the country of the industrial strife which such an application of double standards caused in the days of the former civilian regime.
33. In spite of all these Lt.-Col. Gowon in his press conference defers to the recommendations of the Permanent Secretaries on this head. Although the decision at Aburi was that the salaries of all displaced persons who had not obtained alternative employment should, without qualification, be paid until 31 March, 1967, Lt.-Col. Gowon stated that “each case is to be considered on its merit” and that Federal Corporations would find it “very difficult” to continue to pay their displaced employees.
34. With respect to appointments to certain posts in the Federal Public Service, the Permanent Secretaries commented as follows:
“(a) whichever category of officer is meant, the effect of this decision will tend to paralyse the functions of the Federal Public and the Police Service Commissions;
“(b) if Regional Governors have power to appointments, the loyalty of Federal Officers would be to their regions of origin—meaning in effect that there will be no Federal Civil Service;
“(c)the acceptance of this decision would also require, as the law officers have reported, amendments to those sections in the
Constitution dealing with appointment to Nigeria Police,Federal Public Service
Commission and sections of various acts dealing with appointment in Federal Statutory
(d) furthermore, it is observed that while Military Governors will have power to appoint, or approve appointments of
Federal Government Servants, there is no corresponding power of the Supreme Military Council to even influence
the appointments to senior posts in the Regional Public Services. This clearly makes the Federal Military Government.”
Obviously the Permanent Secretaries are not concerned with the peace, stability and even the survival of Nigeria; their sole interest is to maintain the status quo because any attempt at a fair distribution of posts -in the Federal Civil Service, the Federal Corporations, the Foreign Service and other Federal institutions would mean a diminution of the powers they now enjoy. The East must remain permanently excluded from these services and institutions for the selfish ends of Federal Permanent Secretaries. The East must be relegated to obscure embassies abroad where they will- be ineffective and unheard. In his press statement Lt.-Col. Gowon, in his attempt to keep to the advice of the Permanent Secretaries, was caught up in contradictions. In one and the same breath he said that these appointments should be approved by the Supreme Military Council and that the Federal public Service and Police Commissions should retain their present functions. His exact words were-
“There have been some speculations about the effect of our decisions on senior appointments and – promotions in the Federal Public Service. It was agreed that top posts such as Permanent Secretaries and Ambassadors will have to be approved by the I ship Supreme Military Council. I would like to explain that the Armey Federal Public Service Commission as well as the Police Commission and i will continue to function as at present.”
35. Finally, on the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference the Permanent Secretaries stated that it was rather advisable for Gowon stick to their previous recommendations and advice, namely:
“(a) that the Ad Hoc Constitutional
Conference should stand adjourned indefinitely;
“(b) that the immediate political programme announced to the nation on 30 November, 1966, by the ‘Supreme Commander’ should be implemented and the country must be so informed.”
The Permanent Secretaries have here revealed that the origin of Lt.Col. Gowon’s
of 30 November, 1966, was “the recommendations and advice” given to him by these Permanent Secretaries. In accordance with this advice, however, Lt.-Col. Gowon, while not appearing to re-affirm “that the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference should stand adjourned indefinitely”, said— “So far I have not set up the Drafting Committee and the Constituent Assembly promised in my broadcast (of 30 November, 1966) because it was the intention that normal conditions should be fully restored before they begin to function… I am carrying… on the necessary consultations with all sections of the Nigerian – community and when eventually the names we are screening are announced the general public will be satisfied.”
In this context, the indications are that Lt.-Col. Gowon would rather take steps to implement his pet programme than facilitate the resumption of the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference as decided at Aburi. This is borne out by the draft Decree which he produced after Aburi.
36. This draft Decree, which has been circulated to the Regional Military Governors by Lt.-Col. Gowon, accordingly by-passes or ignores all the major decisions taken at Aburi. It seeks to return Nigeria to the constitutional position before 17 January, 1966, while in fact the decisions of the Supreme Military Council were on specific issues and were not limited by dates. In the draft Decree the title of “Supreme Commander” is still retained contrary to the decision at Aburi to alter it to “Commander-in-Chief”. The draft Decree also retains the word “President” instead of “Chairman of the Supreme Military Council” as was agreed at Aburi. Again it enlarges the membership of the Supreme Military Council to include “Head of the Nigerian Army (a non-existent post), the “Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces” and the “Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army”. No such decisions were taken at Aburi. It was merely agreed that there should be one Chief of Staff at Headquarters.
37. In addition, contrary to the Aburi accord, the draft Decree vests executive and legislative powers either in the Federal Military Government or in the Federal Executive Council. But the Aburi meeting clearly decided that the legislative and executive authority of the
Federal Military Government should devolve on the Supreme Military Council to which any matter affecting the whole country should be referred for determination.
38. The draft Decree also completely ignores the decision at Aburi that appointments and promotions within the upper hierarchy of the Army, Police, the Public Service and Corporations must be approved by the Supreme Military Council.
39. Lastly, the draft Decree proceeds to restore sections 70, 71 and 86 of the old Constitution, which had been suspended, without also restoring the safeguards provided in that Constitution. By this action Lt.-Col. Gowon, contrary to the spirit and letter of the Aburi agreements, arrogates to himself the power to declare a state of emergency anywhere in Nigeria.
BAD FAITH OF LT.-COL. GOWON
40. The failure of Lt.-Col. Gowon to adhere to the decisions unanimously reached at Aburi is only the latest evidence of his bad faith, inconsistency and lack of realism.
41. On the first day of his seizure of power he had pleaded for co-operation from the East Military Government, and had promised to retain power only temporarily in order to normalise the extraordinary conditions created by himself and his fellow Northerners, military and civilian. Thereafter the Military leaders were to meet and decide on the leadership. Lt.-Col. Gowon has never fulfilled that promise. The breach of his promise to see to the return of arms and ammunition by Northern soldiers evacuated from the East has already been mentioned in paragraph 8 above. Lt.-Col. Gowon also assured the Military Government of the East in August, 1966 that he would stop the killings in the country, but these killings subsequently increased in organization and ferocity until they reached the proportions of a pogrom. He moreover promised that the inquiry set up by Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi into the May massacres of Easterners in Northern Nigeria would “certainly go on as scheduled”. Nothing has been heard again about this inquiry ever since. So also most of the difficulties preventing the return to normal conditions in the country have stemmed from Lt.-Col. Gowon’s bad faith in not implementing the unanimous decisions reached by the representatives of the military leaders at their meeting in Lagos on 9 August.
42.Early in September 1966, armed soldiers of Northern origin from Ibadan raided Benin Prison and removed soldiers who had been detained as a result of their
alleged involvement in the attempted coup of
15 January. The Northerners among the detainees were set free and repatriated to the North; the remainder, mainly Easterners, were murdered under brutal circumstances. And although Lt.-Col. Gowon gave assurances that the murderers would be brought to justice, so far the perpetrators of the atrocities have gone unpunished.
43. It was exactly this same sort of bad faith that Lt.-Col. Gowon exhibited in September, 1966. In his opening address to the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference, he had himself instructed the delegates to choose one of the following alternatives in formulating a new Constitution for Nigeria:
“(a) A Federal system with a strong Central Government;
“(b) A Federal system with a weak Central Government;
“(c) A Confederation ;or
“(d) An entirely new arrangement which may be peculiar to Nigeria.”
At the same time Gowon disavowed any intention of dictating to the country a particular constitution. When, however, he saw that the delegations were veering towards the second or third alternative, he adjourned the conference indefinitely. He thereupon
announced that “the idea of a temporary confederation is unworkable” and that he was appointing “a drafting committee” to prepare a constitution which “will reflect the generally expressed desire for a stable federation”. it will be recalled, however, that the delegations to the Ad Hoc Conference went to Lagos in September, 1966, after extensive consultations among the people in each Region. Thus each delegation went
with a mandate representing the “expressed desire” of its people. But, true to type, Lt.-Col. Gowon placed a dubious construction on the submissions
of the delegations to suit his purpose and that of his advisers.
44. Contrary to the decisions at Aburi recruitment into the Army has continued in different parts of the country except the East; contrary to these agreements, Lt.-Col. Gowon has proceeded to appoint Ambassadors without reference to the Supreme Military Council; contrary to the agreements, purchase and importation of arms have continued. Lt.-Col. Gowon unilaterally postponed the meeting of Military officers to discuss the reorganization of the Army as agreed at Aburi. The proposed meeting of Finance officials on the problem of rehabilitation of displaced persons has not even been held because Lt.-Col. Gowon’s Finance Permanent Secretary does not think that such a meeting will serve any useful purpose. –
45. In the light of the foregoing and since there is clearly no hope of a change of attitude on the part of Lt.-Col. Gowon, the East Military Government considers that the time has come when it must take a final stand against a regime which cannot abide by agreements voluntarily arrived at. The Military Government of the East is irrevocably committed to the task of ameliorating the suffering of its struggling people and providing them with the peace, order and good government which are their overriding needs. To this end the Government will publish shortly its future policy towards the implementation of the Aburi agreements.