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Monday, 18 December, 2000, 11:01 GMT
Nigeria's weeping generals
Witness shows the panel how he was tortured
Torture techniques demonstrated to the panel
By Sola Odunfa in Lagos

Nigeria's Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission ended its sittings in the country's largest city, Lagos, at the weekend after five weeks of testimony.

All evidence was taken in the open and the sittings proved to be the dominant public attraction in the city.


The spectacle of the two weeping generals has since become the subject of scathing media commentaries on the calibre of some of the military officers who ruled Nigeria for 28 years

The petitions that attracted the largest audiences were those on the 1997 coup attempt against the dictator General Sani Abacha and the death of the politician Chief Moshood Abiola after four years in detention.

One person definitely must be regretting his decision to petition the commission over the alleged abuse of his human rights.

That person is the former number two man in the Abacha military government, Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya, who was arrested, convicted and condemned to death for attempting to topple the government in December 1997.

Sympathy evaporates

General Diya came to the commission riding on the crest of public sympathy but he left the venue to boos and jeers from the spectators.

General Abacha
Blamed for human rights abuses
General Diya had complained that his arrest and trial were a set-up to eliminate him and other senior military officers of the Yoruba ethnic group of south-western Nigeria.

He said that there was in fact no coup plot.

However two other officers who were tried and condemned with him confessed that they did plan a coup and that General Diya was the mastermind.

'Coward'

He cut a sorry figure in the former Senate chamber as witness upon witness from the military painted a picture of the former number two man as a liar and a cowardly person.

The dramatic video film shot secretly as General Diya knelt and wept before General Abacha to seek forgiveness was shown to the public for the first time at the commission.

Again General Diya tried to denounce it as fake but his feeble effort was greeted with jeers from the gallery.

Former minister Major-General Abdulkarim Adisa, for his part, admitted that he wept and prostrated, begging for pardon before a junior officer.

Ridicule

The spectacle of the two weeping generals has since become the subject of scathing media commentaries on the calibre of some of the military officers who ruled Nigeria for 28 years.

The death of Chief Moshood Abiola in detention exactly a month after that of his captor General Abacha has returned to the fore in public discourse.

Moshood Abiola
Moshood Abiola: Death plot allegations
There is now evidence before the commission that, contrary to government statements at the time, Mr Abiola's death was not natural but the result of a conspiracy among some army generals.

Importantly also, thanks to the commission, Nigerians now know that their military rulers established special centres where political opponents were severely tortured.

One of the centres was built at the Lagos cemetery and another had long rows of pitch-dark underground cells.

To the chagrin of the public, however, none of the alleged torturers has so far shown any remorse.

The commission will sit in some other towns in eastern and northern Nigeria before returning to the capital Abuja in mid-January.

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See also:

02 Dec 00 | Africa
Inside Nigeria's terror cells
28 Nov 00 | Africa
Abiola witness death threats
21 Nov 00 | Africa
Businessman 'beaten 300 times'
03 Sep 99 | Africa
Nigeria: A history of coups
20 Oct 00 | Business
London implicated in Abacha probe
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