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Nigeria-Biafra Civil War : Official Record of the Minutes of the Meeting of Nigeria’s Military Leaders held at Aburi

Nigeria-Biafra Civil War


Aburi Accord, Ghana

 


Official Record of the Minutes of the Meeting of Nigeria’s  Military Leaders held at Aburi.
The Supreme Military Council held its
meeting in Ghana on the 4th-5th January. Those present were:

Lt.-Col. Yakubu Gowon
Colonel Robert Adebayo
Lt.-Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu
Lt.-Col. David Ejoor
Lt.-Col. Hassan Katsina
Commodore J.E.A. Wey
Major Mobolaji Johnson
Alhaji Kam Selem
Mr. T. Omo-Bare

Secretaries:
Mr. S.I.A. Akenzua Permanent Under-Secretary, Federal Cabinet Office

Mr. P.T. Odumosu Secretary to the Military Government, West
Mr. N.U. Akpan Secretary to the Military Government, East

Mr. D.P. Lawani Under Secretary, Military Governor’s Office, Mid-West
Alhaji Ali Akilu Secretary to the Military Government, North

Opening

The Chairman of the Ghana National Liberation Council, Lt.-General
J.A. Ankrah
, declaring the meeting open, welcomed the visitors to
Ghana and expressed delight that Ghana had been agreed upon by the
Nigerian Military leaders as the venue for this crucial meeting. He
considered the whole matter to be the domestic affair of Nigeria, and
as such, he refrained from dwelling on any specific points. The
General, however, expressed the belief that the Nigerian problems were
not such that cannot be easily resolved through patience,
understanding and mutual respect. Throughout history, he said, there
has been no failure of military statesmen and the eyes of the whole
world were on the Nigerian Army. He advised that soldiers are purely
statesmen and not politicians and the Nigerian Military leaders owe it
as a responsibility to the 56 million people of Nigeria to
successfully carry through their task of nation-building.

Concluding, the General urged the Nigerian leaders to bury their differences,
forget the past and discuss their matter frankly but patiently.

 

2. Lt.-Col. Gowon invited the Nigerian leaders to say a joint thank you
to their host, and all said thank you in unison in response to
Lt.-General Ankrah’s address.

 

3. At this point the General vacated the conference table.

Importation of Arms and resolution renouncing the use of Force
4. Lt.-Col. Ojukwu spoke next. He said that the Agenda was acceptable
to him subject to the comments he had made on some of the items.
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu said that no useful purpose would be served by using
the meeting as a cover for arms build-up and accused the Federal
Military Government of having engaged in large scale arms deals by
sending Major Apolo to negotiate for arms abroad. He alleged that the
Federal Military Government recently paid f1 million for some arms
bougth from Italy and now stored up in Kaduna. Lt.-Col. Ojukwu was
reminded by the Military Governor, North and other members that the
East was indulging in an arms build-up and that the plane carrying
arms which recently crashed on the Cameroons border was destined for
Enugu. Lt.-Col. Ojukwu denied both allegations. Concluding his
remarks on arms build-up, Lt.-Col. Ojukwu proposed that if the meeting
was to make any progress, all the members must at the outset adopt a
resolution to renounce the use of force in the settlement of Nigerian
dispute.

 

5. Lt.-Col. Gowon explained that as a former Chief of Staff,
Army, he was aware of the deficiency in the country’s arms and
ammunition which needed replacement. Since the Defense Industries
Corporation could not produce these, the only choice was to order from
overseas and order was accordingly placed to the tune of f3/4 million.
He said to the best of his knowledge, the actual amount that had been
paid out was only f80,000. As to why these arms were sent up to the
North, Lt.-Col. Gowon referred to lack of storage facilities in Lagos
and reminded his Military Colleagues of the number of times arms and
ammunition had been dumped in the sea. This was why, he said, it
became necessary to use the better storage facilities in Kaduna. The
arms and ammunition had not been distributed because they arrived only
two weeks previously and have not yet been taken on charge. After
exhaustive discussion to which all members contributed and during
which Lt.-Col. Ejoor pointed out that it would be necessary to
determine what arms and ammunitions had arrived and what each unit of
the Army had before any further distribution would take place, the
Supreme Military Council unanimously adopted a Declaration proposed by
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu, that all members:

 

a. renounce the use of force as a means of settling the Nigerian crisis;

b. reaffirm their faith in discussions and negotiation as the only peaceful way of resolving the Nigerian crisis; and

c. agree to exchange information on the quantity of arms and ammunition available in each unit of the Army in each Region and in the unallocated stores, and to share out such arms equitably to the various commands;

d. agree that there should be no more importation of arms and ammunition until normalcy was restored.
The full text of the Declaration was signed by all members. 

 

6. The Supreme Military Council, having acknowledged the fact that the series
of disturbances since 15th, January 1966, have caused disunity in the
Army resulting in lack of discipline and loss of public confidence,
turned their attention to the question of how best the Army should be
re-organized in order to restore that discipline and confidence.
There was a lengthy discussion of the subject and when the arguments
became involved members retired into secret session. On their return
they announced that agreement had been reached by them on the
re-organization, administration and control fo the Army on the
following lines: 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 promotion 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.

 

7. In connection with the re-organization of the army, the Council discussed the distribution of
Military personnel with particular reference to the present
recruitment drive. The view was held that general recruitment
throughout the country in the present situation would cause great
imbalance in the distribution of soldiers. After a lengthy discussion
of the subject, the Council agreed to set up a Military Committee, on
which each Region will be represented, to prepare statistics which
will 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 requirements for the country and each Area
Command. The Committee is to meet and report to Council within two
weeks from the date of receipt of instructions.

 

8. The Council agreed that pending completion of the exercise in paragraph 7 further
recruitment of soldiers should cease.

 

9. In respect of item 3 (b) of the Agenda, implementation of the agreement reached on 9th August,
1966, it was agreed, after a lengthy discussion, that it was
necessary for the agreement reached on 9th August by the delegates of
the Regional Governments to be fully implemented. In particular, it
was accepted in principle that army personnel of Northern origin
should return to the North from the West. It was therefore felt that
a crash program of recruitment and training, the details of which
would be further examined after the Committee to look into the
strength and distribution of army personnel had reported, would be
necessary to constitute indigenous army personnel in the West to a
majority there quickly.

Non-Recognition by the East of Lt.-Col. Gowon as Supreme Commander

 

10. The question of the non-recognition by the East of Lt.-Col. Gowon as
Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government was also
exhaustively discussed. Lt.-Col. Ojukwu based his objection on the
fact, inter alia, that no one can properly assume the position of
Supreme Commander until the whereabouts of the former Supreme
Commander, Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, was known. He therefore asked
that the country be informed of the whereabouts of the Major-General
and added that in his view, it was impossible, in the present
circumstances, for any one person to assume any effective central
command of the Nigerian Army. Lt.-Col. Ejoor enunciated four
principles to guide the meeting in formulating an answer to the
question of who should be Supreme Commander. There were the:

a. Problem of effective leadership;

 b. Crisis of confidence in the Army;
c. Disruption in the present chain of command;

 d. Inability of any soldier to serve effectively in any unit anywhere in the country.
Lt.-Col. Gowon replied that he was quite prepared to make an
announcement on the matter and regretted that a formal announcement
had been delayed for so long but the delay was originally intended to
allow time for tempers to cool down. He reminded his colleagues that
they already had the information in confidence. After further
discussion and following the insistence by Lt.-Col Ojukwu that Lt.-Col
Gowon should inform members of what happened to the former Supreme
Commander, members retired into secret session and subsequently
returned to continue with the meeting after having reached an
agreement among themselves.

 

11. At this point the meeting adjourned
until Thursday 5th January.

The Power of the Federal Military Government vis-a-vis the Regional
Governments.

 

12. When the meeting resumed on the 5th January, it
proceeded to consider the form of Government best suited to Nigeria in
view of what the country has experienced in the past year (1966).
Members agreed that the legislative and executive authority of the
Federal Military Government should remain in the Supreme Military
Council to which any decision affecting the whole country 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.
Specifically, the Council agreed that appointments to senior ranks in
the Police, Diplomatic and Consular Services as well as appointments
to super-scale posts in the Federal Civil Service and the equivalent
posts in Statutory Corporations must be approved by the Supreme
Military Council. The Regional members felt that all the Decrees or
provisions of Decrees passed since 15th January, 1966, and which
detracted from the previous powers and positions of Regional
Governments should be repealed if mutual confidence is to be restored.
After this issue had been discussed at some length the Council took
the following decisions: The Council decided that:

 

i.

on the reorganization of the army:

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 promotion 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.

 

ii.

on appointment tocertain posts:
The following appointments must be approved by 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 decisionaffecting 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
14th January and list out all the Decrees and provisions of Decrees
concerned so that they may be repealed not later than 21st January if
possible; v. that for at least the next six months, there should be
purely a Military Government, having nothing to do whatever with
politicians.

Soldiers involved in Disturbances on 15th January, 1966 and thereafter
13. Members expressed views about the future of those who have been
detained in connection with all the disturbances since 15th January,
1966, and agreed that the fate of soldiers in detention should be
determined not later than end of January 1967.

Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference
14. The Council next considered the question of the resumption of the
Ad Hoc Constitutional Committee and the acceptance of that Committee’s
recommendations of September 1966. After some exchange of views, it
was agreed that the Ad Hoc Committee Should resume sitting as soon as
practicable to begin from where they left off, and that the question
of accepting the unanimous recommendations of September 1966 be
considered at a later meeting of the Supreme Military Council.

The Problems of Displaced Persons
15. The Council considered exhaustively the problems of displaced
persons, with particular reference to their rehabilitation, employment
and property. The view was expressed and generally accepted that the
Federal Government ought to take the lead in establishing a National
Body which will be responsible for raising and making appeal for
funds. Lt.-Col. Ojukwu made the point, which was accepted by Lt.-Col.
Katsina, that in the present situation, the intermingling of
Easterners and Northerners was not feasible. After each Military
Governor had discussed these problems as they affected his area, the
Council agreed:

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 31st 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. Lt.-Col. Ejoor disclosed that the employment
situation in his Region was so acute that he had no alternative but to
ask no-Mid-Westerners working the private sector in his Region to
quit and make room for Mid-Westerners repatriated from elsewhere.
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu stated that he fully appreciated the problem faced by
both the Military Governor, West, and the Military Governor, Mid-West,
in this matter and that if in the last resort, either of them had to
send the Easterners concerned back to the East, he would understand,
much as the action would further complicate the resettlement problem
in the East. He assured the Council that his order that
non-Easterners should leave the Eastern Region would be kept under
constant review with a view to its being lifted as soon as
practicable.

 

16. On the question of future meeting of the Supreme
Military Council, members agreed that future meetings will be held in
Nigeria at a venue to be mutually agreed.

 

17. On the question of
Government information media, the Council agreed that all Government
information media should be restrained from making inflammatory
statements and causing embarrassment to various Governments in the
Federation.

 

18. There were other matters not on the Agenda which were
also considered among which were the form of Government for Nigeria
(reported in paragraph 12 above) and the disruption of the country’s
economy by the lack of movement of rail and road transport which the
Regional Governors agreed to look into.

 

19. The meeting began and
ended in a most cordial atmosphere and members unanimously issued a
second and final Communique’.

 

20. In his closing remarks the Chairman
of the Ghana National Liberation Council expressed his pleasure at the
successful outcome of the meeting and commended the decisions taken to
the Nigerian leaders for their implementation. Lt.-Col. Gowon on
behalf of this colleagues thanked the Ghanaian leader for the
excellent part he had played in helping to resolve the issues. The
successful outcome of the meeting was then toasted with champagne and
the Nigerians took leave of the Ghanaians.

 

21. The proceedings of the meeting were reported verbatim for each Regional Government and the
Federal Government by their respective official reporters and
tape-recorded versions were distributed to each Government.