Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, March 4, 1999 Published at 11:31 GMT

World: Africa

Nigeria frees coup plotters

President-elect General Obansanjo was detained for three years

Nigeria's outgoing military government has granted state pardons to 95 people jailed for allegedly plotting coups against the former leader General Sani Abacha.

Vice-Admiral Mike Akhigbe said that all those involved were to be released "immediately".

Barnaby Phillips reports on the late night meeting of the Provisional Ruling Council
"We believe in the spirit of national reconciliation and therefore we want to leave our ugly past behind," Admiral Akhigbe said at the end of a meeting of the ruling military council in the capital Abuja.

After General Abacha's death in June 1998, the Nigerian military government - led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar - tried to ease political tensions by freeing many political detainees and embarked on moves to restore civil rule.

Nigeria elections
The BBC Correspondent in Nigeria, Barnaby Phillips, says the releases became inevitable following the victory of former General Olusegun Obasanjo in last Saturday's presidential election.

Mr Abasanjo had himself been convicted of coup plotting and was detained for three years. He always maintained his innocence. Some of those being released were jailed with him.

He told his party on Wednesday that "no Nigerian who should not go to prison will go to prison under my administration".

Abacha deputy included

The most prominent of the prisoners pardoned is General Abacha's former deputy, Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya. He had been sentenced to death but that was later commuted to life imprisonment.

The 95 also include

  • Niran Malolu, editor of a Lagos newspaper the Diet
  • Major-General Abdulkareem Adisa, ex-Works Minister
  • Major-General Tajudeen Olarenwaju, former Communications Minister
  • Colonel Lawan Gwadabe, ex-state governor.

The government said charges against one officer, Colonel Ibrahim Yakassai, were still being investigated.

Coups 'faked'

Since the death of General Abacha, Nigerian newspapers have said the coup plots were faked by the dictator's security agents in order to get rid of his opponents.

Those detained at the time included not only army officers but also journalists from opposition media and pro-democracy activists.

Some of those imprisoned have since died in jail. They have now been pardoned posthumously.

Charges against people on a wanted list from a bloody coup attempt in 1990 have also been dropped.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

02 Mar 99 | Africa
Nigeria promised transparent government

02 Mar 99 | Africa
Analysis: Democracy returns

02 Mar 99 | Africa
World congratulates Nigeria

01 Mar 99 | Africa
Profile: Olusegun Obasanjo

28 Feb 99 | Africa
Nigerian elections: The day in pictures

24 Feb 99 | Africa
Nigeria elections timeline

Internet Links

Nigeria on the Net

Nigeria Media Monitor

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

Sudan power struggle denied

Animal airlift planned for Congo

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Zimbabwe constitution: Just a bit of paper?

South African gays take centre stage

Nigeria's ruling party's convention

UN to return to Burundi

Bissau military hold fire

Nile basin agreement on water cooperation

Congo Brazzaville defends peace initiative

African Media Watch

Liberia names new army chief