“You are therefore subject to the redeployment at anytime as the exigencies of our calling may dictate. All military Governors are answerable to the Chief of Supreme Headquarters, Major General Babatunde Abdulbaki Idiagbon. The channel of communication with me on all matters affecting the governance of the state or the federation is through the Chief of staff Supreme Headquarters who shall be responsible, inter alia for the co-ordination of States administration.”
Maj. Gen.(late) Babatunde Idiagbon
The above statement was made by Major General Muhammadu Buhari who ruled as Nigeria Military Head of State from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985 when he swore in his new Ministers.
Now, these are important…
In this article, I’ll share with you how…
- soldiers were used to enforce laws.
- Umoru Dikko kidnap attempt failed.
- manufacturers were affected, rise in consumer goods and steps to curb inflation.
- military tribunals set up in different states to try corrupt politicians and government officials.
- Nigerians became dissatisfied with the military regime.
- press freedom was curtailed and
- the military regime of Muhammadu Buhari was brought to a halt.
Now let me walk you through each subhead…
How did soldiers enforce the laws?
On the right : Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari
After Major General Muhammadu Buhari was ushered into power through military coup d’etat he sent soldiers to streets with whips to enforce traffic regulations and ensure commuters form oderly queues at bus stops. Civil servants who arrived late to offices were forced to perform frog squat. This were possible because soldiers and a special Paramilitary Corps were empowered to punish “every manifestation of indiscipline”.
Attempts by over-zealous soldiers in the first weeks after the coup to impose bargain prices in the shops made shortages of goods worse as traders hoarded then what they managed to hide. In fact black market champagne and French perfume dissapear as soldiers patrolled the borders for smuggling. However, it will interest you to know that, prices of essential goods and commodities that fell in the first week that Buhari took over power as a result of presence of soldiers in the market, later returned to or even exceeded their levels before the coup.
Want to know how Dikko kidnap attempt was uncovered?
Stay with me and you’ll read it yourself…
In one bizarre incident in London in 1984, a team of Nigerian and Isrealis attempted to kidnap and repatriated the exiled former Nigerian Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Umaru Dikko who fled Nigeria after the military coup. He was accused of stealing $1bn (625m pounds) of Nigerian government money. An Isreali Mossad agent, Alexander Barak who led the kidnap team. A Nigerian Intelligence Officer Major Mohammed Yusufu and Isreali citizen Felix Abitol and Dr. Lev-Arie Shapiro was contracted to inject Alhaji Umaru Dikko with an anesthetic.
Guess what happened next?
Late Umaru Dikko
Surprisingly, the plot was foiled by a young British Customs Officer, Charles David Marrow at the Stansted Airport Cargo Terminal. This kidnap incident caused one of the ever diplomatic crisis between Nigeria and Britain. The Nigerian High Commissioner, Major General Haldu Hananiya was declared persona non grata in London. The head of the Nigeria Airways escaped being arrested by British Police. Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Britain was suspended for two years.
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This controversy also weakened Nigeria’s war on corruption, as Britain rejected a subsequent formal request to extradite Umaru Dikko and other Nigeria politicians in the United Kingdom’s (UK) who were wanted in Nigeria on corruption charges. Four men were convicted of kidnapping Dikko (three Israelis and a Nigerian) in a trial at the Old Bailey and were all sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 14 years. They were all released and returned to their countries after serving their sentences.
How did Nigerians and manufacturers groaned?
Nigeria’s manufacturers felt the pinch most. Nigeria buys about 75 % of it industries raw materials abroad. Over 100 businesses stopped production in 1983 because they could not get foreign exchange for imports. In the previous years, imports and raw materials accounted for 40% of all imports and raw materials only 25%. Under the military government rule 58% of raw materials, industrial spare parts; 12% food; 18% consumer goods and 12% for invisibles such as foreign travels and management fee remittances.
Again, Nigeria unemployment was more than 40% in 1982 which continued to rise as many of the imported raw materials and spare parts needed to keep factories running were not available. The government promised to keep prices of essential commodities down by cutting out middlemen who use to take a cut on each of five or six transactions between ship and shop. This statement sounded optimistic, but the true level of Nigeria’s imports has long been inflated by invoicing and false pricing. Throwing out the crooks at home and buying more competitively abroad should reduce the fall in the volume of imports, according to officials.
I know that’s a lot to take in, but bear with me…
How were the military tribunals constituted?
Major General Muhammadu Buhari regime constituted military tribunals to try public officials from Shagari’s administration who were accused of stealing public funds. These tribunals are highly controversial. They were chaired by military officers and had the power to impose massive prison sentences. They were constituted as follows:
1. Brig. Paul Omu (Chairman)
2. Brig. Malami Nassarawa
3. Navy Capt. Godwin Nduibisi Kanu
4. Lt. Col. Adeyinka Martin’s
5. Justice Timothy Oyeyipo
Comprises of Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto states and the F. C. T, Abuja.
1. Navy Capt. (Late) Mufutau Babatunde Elegbede (Chairman)
2. Lt. Col. Ibrahim Gumel
3. Lt. Col. Mohammed Maina
4. Wg. Cmdr. John Abakpolor
5. Justice Paul Nwokedi
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Consist of Bendel (later divided into Edo and Delta), Kwara, Oyo, Ogun and Info States.
1. Brig. Charles Ndiomu (Chairman)
2. Lt. Col. Yohanna Anteyan Madaki
3. Wg. Cmdr. Camila Ohadumere
4. Justice Saleh Minjibir
It is made up of Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gongola (now divided into Taraba and Adamawa), and Plateau States.
1. Brig. Peter Adomokhahi (Chairman)
2. Navy Capt. Jubril Ayinla
3. Lt. Col. Isaac Adebunmi
4. Wg. Cmdr. Sunday Cole
5. Justice Joseph Ogundare
made up of Anambra, Cross River, Rivers, and Imo State.
1. Air Comm. (Late) Mukhtar Mohammed (Chairman)
2. Lt. Col. (Late) Samuel Leo Victor Malu
3. Wing Cmdr. S. B. Suare
4. Navy Capt. Thompson Odiso
5. Justice Alhassan Idoko
The problems are…
The only right to appeal from the the tribunals was to Supreme Military Council (SMC) which was also exclusively made up of military officers (and the Inspector General of Police). The military effectively acted as prosecutors, judge and juries. Unsurprisingly, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) barred it members lawyers from taking part in the tribunals. Anyway, the trails took place to convict and jailed prominent politicians and officials.
1. Former Rivers State Governor (late) Melford Obiene Okilo was jailed 21 years for illegally holding bank accounts overseas in breach of laws that related to Nigerian government public officers.
2. Minister of Finance, Victor Mazi was convicted of corruptly collecting amount near the figure of $ 5.45 million from a construction company.
3. Former Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and his successor, Sabo Bakin Zuwo were both jailed for 21 years for illegally accepting bribes to facilitate a property deal. Boxes full of cash were found after the raid of Bakin Zuwo home.
4. Among other prominent politicians convicted by the tribunals were Anthony Enahoro, late Aper Aku, Jim Ifeanyi chukwu Nwobodo, late Ambrose Folorunsho Alli , late Olusola Saraki , Awwal Ibrahim (who is presently Emir of Suleja), Alhaji Abubakar Barde.
But that’s not all…
Given that most of the convicted were already 50 years old, they were likely to die in prison. If they served the rest of their sentences. The tribunals effectively put Nigeria’s political elites in jail. However, the controversy surrounding the tribunals composition created justification. Later when General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida overthrew Major General Muhammadu Buhari to release the jailed politicians without the public asking whether irrespective of the nature of the tribunals, the defendants were guilty of the Offences they were convicted of.
How was press freedom and others curtailed?
According to critics political activities and even debate were banned and students organisations were outlawed. Nigeria traditionally independent judiciary saw it role severely reduced. The indiscipline campaign was extended to the press, whose freedom was curtailed by Decree 4, making it an offence for journalists to publish anything “which brings or is calculated to bring the military regime to ridicule”. ‘Nigeria Secret Police’ (National Security Organization) presently known as the State Security Service (SSS) or Department of State Service (DSS) grew extremely powerful under Buhari powerful deputy – Major General Babatunde Abdulbaki Idiagbon.
As we have seen, Nigerians later became tired of Major General Muhammadu Buhari led military regime high handedness and palpable relief came on August, 1985. After 20 months in power on Id-el-kabir August 26/27, 1985. According to a western diplomat Buhari could have accomplished so much, if he had quickly moved and boldly in his early days when his popularity was still so high and he could blamed everything on Shagari.
Max Siollun: Buhari Idiagbon; A Missed Opportunity for Nigeria
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