UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Lagos newspapers reported Thursday, June 22, that Nigeria's former military ruler General Olusegun Obasanjo and his chief deputy have been charged in a military tribunal trying suspected coup plotters. The trial of retired Major- General Shehu Yar'Adua began on Tuesday and that of Obasanjo earlier, the reports said. Spokespersons for the Nigerian military refused comment except to say that information would be available after trials of 23 alleged coup plotters, not including the two former rulers, were completed at the end of June. In 1990 a total of 69 people were executed after their secret trial for the failed bloody rebellion against then army President Ibrahim Babangida by disgruntled junior officers. Some other convicted people were given jail terms.
The following statements have been released by Obasanjo's family and by the U.S. White House.
An appeal from the family of the former Nigerian head-of-state General Olusegun Obasanjo
Secret trial raises fears for the safety of respected statesman
We the family of General Olusegan Obasanjo are asking the international community to intercede with the Nigerian authorities to demand the release of this respected statesman, who is chairman of the African Leadership Forum and a trustee of the Ford Foundation.
Under arrest in Nigeria on unspecified charges, the general may be undergoing a secret trial and could be facing execution by the dictatorial government currently ruling the country.
An outspoken critic of continued military rule and advocate for democracy, General Obasanjo initially was arrested on March 13, then released at the behest of former President Jimmy Carter and other international figures on March 22 and confined to his home. Allowed no access to outside communication, he was allowed to see only his wife and children until he was picked up again on the night of June 13 and taken to an undisclosed location. No word of his fate was given us until Sunday, June 18 when he was examined by a doctor at a military site and the doctor reported to us that he had lost considerable body weight, was excessively fatigued, and was suffering from high blood pressure.
Since his initial detention, the general has not been formally presented with any accusations.
We are demanding his release, or, if the authorities persist in holding him, an open trial with representation by a lawyer of his choosing and with international observers in attendance.
General Obasanjo served as military leader in Nigeria from 1978 to 1980, during which time he voluntarily organized democratic elections and handed over to an elected, civilian government. Since then, he has served on numerous international panels and commissions.
June 22, 1995
Issued on behalf of the family by:
Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo (daughter)
Tel: (910) 659-4935
Fax: (910) 764-5818
Distributed via Africa News Online by Africa News Service (email@example.com)
Statement by the Press Secretary, The White House, Washington, June 21, 1995
The United States condemns the Government of Nigeria's arrest and continued detention of former President General Olusegun Obasanjo and is deeply concerned about reports that the Government plans to try him. No public charges have been filed against Obasanjo and no evidence presented to justify his detention. These actions again demonstrate the Government of Nigeria's failure to respect the human rights and basic civil liberties of its citizens. Such steps will only exacerbate tensions in Nigeria and further strain Nigeria's relations with the international community.
The United States also remains concerned about the secret trials now underway for 23 alleged coup plotters and urges the Government of Nigeria to provide due process, including public trials, for all persons detained or charged in connection with alleged coup plotting.
The United States reiterates its call upon Nigerian authorities to fulfill their pledge to return Nigeria rapidly to democratic civilian government. The Government of Nigeria should prove its commitment to press freedom, respect for civil liberties and freedom of association by immediately lifting the ban on media houses and political parties, releasing or charging all detainees, and respecting due process of law.
In response to the November 1993 military coup, the U.S. imposed broad visa restrictions on Nigerian nationals who "formulate, implement or benefit from policies that impede Nigeria's transition to democracy" as well as their immediate families. The U.S. also terminated military assistance and training programs. Separately, as a consequence of Nigeria's narcotics decertification, the United States has suspended Export-Import or OPIC financing for projects in Nigeria and ended all direct assistance to the Nigerian Government.
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 1995 23:01:23 +0000
Subject: Obasanjo and Others Feared in Additional Danger