The Spread of the Pogrom to all Parts of Northern Nigeria and to some Towns of
Southern Nigeria in September and October, 1966
The May riots affected mainly the Hausa/Fulani areas of Northern Nigeria. It did not affect the Bornu Emirate to the North-East, the area commonly called the Middle Belt (comprising Benue province with Makurdi as its principal town, Plateau province with Jos as its principal town), Morin, and Kabba provinces. The llorin and Kabba provinces are mainly inhabited by the Yoruba, the Benue province by the Tiv and Idomas and other tribes. The Bornu Emirate is mainly dominated by the Kanuri whose head Chief, the Shehu of Bornu is based at Bornu.
When and how did the pogrom spread to these other areas of the North?
On the 29th July, 1966 there occurred a mutiny in the Nigerian Army which overthrew the Federal Government headed by the late Major-General J. T. U Aguiyi-lronsi. It is generally conceded that this incident was almost exclusively the handwork of officers and ranks of Northern Nigeria origin in the Nigerian Army. Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon assumed power on the 1st August, 1966. With the support of the Military Governor of the North and officers and men of Northern origin in the Nigerian Army he established his control over Northern Nigeria at least.
The pogrom spread to all parts of northern Nigeria between September and October 1966. The main instrument of spreading this pogrom was the Federal Army and Police and thugs organised on a fairly high level to smother the susceptibilities of some of the local chiefs who opposed it. The local inhabitants especially the ex-politicians caught the fever, and horror and disaster spread. The rot was complete.
Makurdi, Oturkpo and Gboko in Benue Province
As a result of renewed disturbances in July 1966 the exodus of Easterners from the North started in earnest in early August 1966. It was to develop into a torrent from September onwards. These refugees from all over the North had to go to the East whether by rail or by road through Makurdi or Gboko and Oturkpo. In mid- September 1966 fresh contingents of the Nigerian Army were posted to these places. They started the disturbances in Benue Province.
The irony of the situation was that these disturbances were renewed with greater callousness and ferocity in September and October throughout the North when the delegates from all the Regions of Nigeria were meeting in Lagos to settle a Constitution best suited for Nigeria and that was designed to bring peace and harmony to the country.
It was at this crucial moment in the history of the country that the organisers of the pogrom chose to extend their horror. We shall now turn to the evidence.
41st Witness Lawrence Chigbo Ume
I hail from Nnobi. I am 35 years old. I am married and have children. My experience on night of 20th September, 1966: At half past three on this day, the former soldiers who were stationed at Makurdi told us a new batch of soldiers had arrived in the town. The newly arrived soldiers were so many that they were split into three batches- 1st batch to Gboko, 2nd batch to Oturkpo and the 3rd batch to stay in Makurdi. At about 6p.m the army chaps came to me again and advised me to make arrangement to go by the night-train because they saw my name on the list of those to be killed.
34th Witness Samuel Anuligo Nwizu
I arrived Makurdi on 3rd September, 1941. I have been there since, living in Mission Ward Makurdi up to 20th September, 1966. I have one wife and three children. I am a trader. I used to buy cloths at Onitsha and sell them at Makurdi. Sometime in May, the Provincial Secretary called a meeting of the tribal representatives in Makurdi – Ibo, Yoruba, Tiv and Hausa; Ibos were represented by Muoghalu, a contractor of Umuoji. There was a Major from the army in attendance. A proclamation was made after the meeting saying that there should be no more fear, that no violence will take place. This was because of fears in Makurdi on account of violence in other parts of Northern Nigeria. There was peace after this. But some people started sending their families home. I sent mine home in July before the coup of July.
On 20th September, at about 8.00 p.m soldiers rushed into the store of one Lawrence Umeh of Nnobi (41st witness) and beat him up. A lot of soldiers and civilians started removing his stock and property. I saw this as I was passing by the street, so l ran to my house. The soldiers were all Hausas and the civilians were all Northerners.
I got home, brought a portmanteau to pack my belonging and money. People surrounded my house. I tried to leave and climbed the fence into the back lane without anything but the cloths I had on. I went to taxi park to take a taxi but everybody had fled so I ran into the bush and from there to the railway station. I bought a ticket for 7/6d for the trip to Enugu.
While waiting for the train which was due at 11p.m or 12 midnight, seven soldiers came with a land-rover to the platform. Any Ibo man they saw they arrested including myself. We were more than 30. We were surrounded and asked to enter the land-rover. I protested and said I had some thing to say. I was fold to shut up. i insisted and was asked to speak up. I said that I had a ticket to travel by train and I did not see why I should travel by land-rover. One soldier examined my ticked, asked whether there were any other persons with tickets, and four stood out. We were put to one side and the soldiers said the rest have been cheating by travelling without tickets, robbing travellers and traders, and that they would see war.
They were lined up and taken away a few at a time. I became afraid and ran back into the bush by the rail line. I was there all night. The train arrived and was kept at the bridge until morning. Soldiers came and removed people in the train which was in the station. I heard gun-shots all night. In the morning the train came into the station and I entered it. The train soon left Makurdi, and I arrived Enugu at 9.00 p.m on 21st.
I understood later that Mr. Lawrence Umeh escaped and travelled on the same train. I was also informed that a carpenter at the health office, an Asaba man, was killed. I will try to provide the name later. My brother E. Nzewi saw several people being killed at the bridge.
All Ibos were searched and their guns and machetes were taken away by the Nigeria Police and soldiers, all Northerners.
Q2482: “Before the 20th September 1966, was there any misunderstanding between the Tivs in Makurdi and Easterners?” “Not at all”.
Q. 2486: “Can you suggest a reason why this disturbance took place in Kano, Zaria and other places but did not touch Makurdi. What do you think was the reason?” “ The reason to my belief is that the Tivs and the Hausas are at loggerheads and they do not want the game displayed in other parts of the North to take place in their area”.
Q. 2489: “Now, in July, there was another disturbance mainly in the Army in which Major-General Aguiyi-lronsi was kidnapped and killed together with the Military Governor of the West Lt. Col Fajuyi. Now what was the reaction in Makurdi?” “The reaction is that since the incident took place everyone was afraid and more people continued to pack and go home, saying there was danger ahead”.
Q. 2492: “I am not thinking of Easterners. What was the reaction of the Tivs?” “They were annoyed. They were not happy”.
19th Witness Simon Muoemenam:
The evidence of this witness gave some clue as to why the new batch of soldiers were despatched to Makurdi.
I hail from Obosi in Onitsha Province. I am 42 years old. I went to Makurdi in 1946. During the political days I was the President of N.C.N.C. Benue Province, and the Chairman of Makurdi Tax Payers’ Association. My own personal observation and experience of the Northerners’ grievances started during the Census. They alleged that almost every Easterner travelled to the East to be counted. I did not travel home myself, so I saw their reactions. They also believed that every Ibo man is a member of the N.C.N.C because during the 1964 Federal general election, every Ibo man participated actively in the boycott of the election in Makurdi.
January 15-Army Take-over: When it was announced that Sarduana was killed, almost all the Northerners rejoiced. They started having a change of mind when the ex-Ministers had the liberty of going round the towns to educate them. In Benue Province, particularly in Tiv Division, everybody was happy. So when the killings of Easterners started in the far North, the Tivs started going round the Benue Province telling the Easterners to stay that they would not take part in the disturbances. Because the Tivs did not support the killings of Easterners, the Hausas refused admitting the Senior Chief of the Tivs in the Advisory Council of Chiefs, but replaced him with the Chief of Wukari.
During the inauguration of Tiv N. A. in the month of August, 1966 Hassan Usuman Katsina, Governor of the North attended the inauguration ceremony. It was then that he called all the leaders in Tiv Division including Tarkar and told them their plan to eliminate the Ibos. Majority of the leaders did not support him. It was then that Hassan discovered that the plan would not work out well in Tiv Division. He went back to Kaduna and sent down many soldiers. Before their arrival prior to 19th September, there was instruction that all Ibos should be searched. My own house was one of those searched.
On Monday the first batch arrived and on the 20th the second batch arrived. In the company of the soldiers were some strange, tall, black, and huge men. On the night of 20th, the soldiers went to the N. A. Police who gave them somebody to direct them to my guest house, thinking that they were looking for accommodation. At first, two of the soldiers came with the man from N.A. Police in a jeep, leaving behind three lorries fully loaded with armed soldiers.
The death toll in Makurdi, Gboko, and Oturkpo as a result of these disturbances initiated by the soldiers will be considered later in this report.
The principal witnesses are Mr. Bassey Ephraim Ironbar (37th witness) Mrs. Gloria Effana Archibong (38th witness), John Ita (179th witness) and A. M. Amachree. Mr. Bassey Ephriam Ironbar was an employee of the Posts and Telegraphs Department; a federal institution. He was transferred to the North in June 1964. He has this to say:
In Bornu Province there was no trouble from January up to September 27th 1966. For the first time ever, there was an attack on Southerners on the night of 28th September at Maiduguri. I lived in the Government quarters. The killings started from the native town as early as 9 p.m and spread to the quarters at 1 a.m… I remained inside my house with my entire family and used the table to view the outside. I saw the natives attack the house of my townsman, Mr. Bassey, a nurse in his house. At about 1 p.m on the 29th while I was still hiding in my house the natives attacked again. They carried sticks and axes. They were over fifty and they attacked my house from the front. I ran out by the back door… The Shehu of Bornu did not want any trouble in his areas but I feel the Fulanis were drafted to the area. They joined the natives to attack and to kill the Easterners and some Mid-Westerners. The death toll at Maiduguri should not be below 900 killed, I noticed in the morning the Yorubas were moving freely in the streets and they opened their houses. Some of them went to their offices undisturbed… The N. A. Police were very uncooperative. They were hostile to anybody who went to them for protection. I am informed by friends that they helped natives to do the killings and to break into people’s houses. Even some of Nigerian Police did not show any sense of duty in the least. The Catholic Mission fathers were helpful to us including Americans. The Rev. Fathers supplied us food in the prison in the name of Red Cross because the fathers were suspected of passing information to us.
Q. 2721: “Who do you think led the attack in Maiduguri?” “They were Fulanis and Hausas mostly with some Kanuris from the villages. Those killers were imported from outside Maiduguri Emirate.”
Q. 2723: “If the Shehu of Bornu did not like the attack, how did the plan succeed in his Emirate?” “The man is a very old man and he is a blind man. He is the oldest of the Emirs in the North. He gave instructions that nothing should happen to non – Northerners. He did as much as he could, but a man as old as that could not control things”.
Q. 2732: ”Who did you think could have been responsible for the importation of assassins, the regional government, the N.A. authorities or the politicians?” “I feel there had been a very big clash between the regional government and the Kanuris. They said that the Kanuris were protecting Easterners. This was because between May and July Easterners were all going to stay at Maiduguri because there was no trouble there. I think it was through the instrumentality of the Northern Government that they were imported”.
The imported thugs apparently needed something dramatic to incense the local inhabitants. If so, the local radio quickly supplied it.
Listen to the 179th Witness Mr. John Ita:
On the night of 28th September after an announcement had previously been made in the local N. B. C. station that Northerners who came down to the East for cattle sale had been murdered in the East, the town broke loose. Not minding again the Shehu’s avowal that he did not want blood split in his domain. Easterners were killed in hundreds on sight, some in their beds indiscriminately. Before I could know what has happened they were breaking down my house owned by an Easterner.
Lastly we wish to touch briefly on the evidence of Mrs. Gloria Effana Archibong, the 38th witness. She was a Staff Nurse working in the General hospital Maiduguri. Her husband was an employee of the Posts and Telegraphs Department Maiduguri. She states:
I lived in Maiduguri Northern Nigeria from October 1964 to 1st October 1966. On the night of 28th September 1966 at about 11 p.m we were sleeping when we heard shouts of ‘My father! My father! in Ibo and Efik. The noise was very much. I woke up and called my husband. He woke up and opened the door and went to the night watchman and asked what was happening. He said they are killing nyamiri… We went to the house of one Easterner, Mr. Ikpi in the Police barracks and stayed with him until daybreak. He reported that the trouble lasted only two hours within which 265 Easterners were killed. The D.P.P.O. (Deputy Provincial Police Officer) an Hausa man said everyone should make his own arrangement to go and that he could not give protection to anyone. It was only when a Rev. Mother and the A. S. P (Assistant Superintendent of Police) a man from Pankshin Mr. Garuba protested that he relented and allowed us to remain. The killers came to police station to kill us and he used his koboko (cane) to flog and drive them away. He asked some Hausa policemen to guard us. The Eastern police men had been disarmed. I observed that Yorubas and Binis were not killed and none of them ran to the police station.
It will be noted that in the face of violent disturbances resulting in loss of lives and destruction of property of Easterners, the authorities chose to disarm members of the Police force of Eastern origin while the Hausa policemen remained armed. The disarming of Eastern policemen and civilians as a prelude to any mob attack on them is a feature which runs through the evidence of most witnesses testifying to events in most towns in Northern Nigeria. It accounts in part for the slaughter of Easterners in the North without their being able to fight back. One of the few exceptions was at Gombe where one P.C. Emejulu had his gun with him and stood his ground. He is the 93rd witness. Another reason was that as against the massive forces of organised mobs with the police and the Army, resistance was useless. This question will be given fuller treatment on the conclusion.
In relation to Jos we encountered an interesting witness. She is the 144th witness, Miss Kate Ifenyinwa Ogbolu (alias Binta Ogbologun). Her parents hail from Obosi in Onitsha Province of Eastern Nigeria. She was born at Kano, received her primary education at Kano and her secondary education at Oshogbo in Western Nigeria. She speaks fluent Hausa and Yoruba in addition, of course, to her mother tongue Ibo. She was a nurse at the General Hospital Jos for the period May 1965 to 24th December 1966 when she was forced by events to return to the East. In 1964 she changed her name to Binta Ogbologun and claimed to come from Kabba in Northern Nigeria – all this was to enable her gain admission into a nurses – training institution at Kano. This subterfuge was designed to escape the rigors of the Northernisation policy introduced by the late Sir Ahmadu Bello’s Government in the North. At Jos she became friendly with another nurse from Kabba, Deborah Olurisha who was herself friendly with Mr. Peter Gowon, a relation of Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon. Because of her association, this witness came to be very well informed e.g. that the late Major General Aguiyi-lronsi would have been kidnapped at Jos but for the bitter opposition of Rwang Pam, Chief of Jos, and of the decision by those concerned that the kidnapping should then be in Western Region and not on Northern soil so that the plan would appear to be a Yoruba plot. It is interesting how most of the girl nurses at Jos were able to foretell with amazing accuracy the events that were to unfold themselves later. They must have been in good company.
Like other witnesses that testified about Jos Miss Ogbolu was certain that during the May disturbances nothing happened in Jos. In fact “some victims of the disturbances in the affected areas came to Jos either to stay with relatives or to find their way to the East”. She testifies that disturbances in Jos started on the night of 20th September 1966. This was confined to looting at this stage. Killing started on the 29th September. From Peter Gowon she got the information that the killers were Ariwas and Buzus. They were nonnatives and were imported into Jos. There is evidence that those Buzus and Ariwas came from Sokoto province and possibly Chad Republic. She described the killers as wearing “red turbans and leather talisman around their waists and necks. They went about with police vans packing looted property”.
As for the soldiers “they were of course already molesting Easterners and girls were particularly in danger.
According to the information which this witness got from Peter Gowon it was necessary to ‘kidnap’ Rwang Pam and lock him up before the killing operations began. He was released in November at the conclusion of the operations. The victims of all this attack were of course Easterners.
The other witnesses are Dick Iwebi (the 72nd witness), M. O. Ezeanum (the 104th witness). The 72nd witness is a Mid-Western Ibo and had this to say:
I am a native of Asaba in the Mid-West. I lived in Jos Northern Region from 1955 until 4th October, 1966. I am 26 years old. I am married with one wife and three children. I worked as a shorthand typist with Leventis Motors but I was just about to assume a new post with Armels when the disturbances occurred.
There were practically no disturbances in May and July because according to general belief the Chief of Jos, Rwang Pam, disagreed with the plan against Easterners. However, as from late August Easterners were frequently beaten up by Northern soldiers especially in hotels and their money and drinks seized. There were also cases of molestation of Easterners in the streets by Northern soldiers.
Easterners became really frightened in the month of September when people began to stay indoors and would hardly leave their premises after 7 p.m. On the 28th September we all went to sleep in our compound before 8 p.m. Then about 2.a.m, I heard noises from the direction of the N. A. Charge Office. Easterners were being attacked and killed and their houses broken into and looted.
All of a sudden, I heard the noise of people in our own compound. It was a large crowd and I heard some of them saying in Hausa that Easterners are living in this house. (“Akwoi nyamiri a nan”). I opened the door of my bedroom and called on my neighbour, Mr. Azuzu, to inform him that we had been completely surrounded. It happened very suddenly just after I had peeped through the windows and noticed some people running at a distance from our house. Almost immediately it dawned on me that our own house had already been invaded.
I saw children of about 4 or 5 years whose parents had been killed and yet these children were given machete cuts and other injuries. It was the most shocking experience in my life… I stayed at the Police Charge Office for six days from 29th September to 4th October when I was flown to the East by Sudan Interior Mission who did not allow the Police or Army to have anything to do with our evacuation because they knew their treacherous behaviour. The Armels Manager, Mr. Nweze was killed by soldiers who blasted his office and workshop with machine gunfire.
Lastly let the 104th Witness M. D. Ezeanum tell his story.
In Jos where I was living, Alhaji Ali Kazaure, the President of Jos Town Council and the Wokirin Gari is the brain behind the plan and killing of Easterners in Plateau Province. On 19th September, 1966, the Northern army officers attacked Mr. J. U. Emenike at his residence. He and others in the house narrowly escaped death and with only bruised body ran to my house. I hurried to Alhaji Ali Kazaure’s house who is living only ten plots away from my house to notify the police through his phone. He cunningly turned me away.
On 20th September 1966, about 30 Northern soldiers with many civilians held a mid-night meeting at Alhaji Ali Kazaure’s residence. On the morning of 21st September, 1966, the Northern caretaker of Plot B.10 Ali Kazaure Street came to me and told me to fly away if I wanted my life for according to him they have agreed to kill all Easterners in the North in their meeting of last night at Ali Kazaure’s residence. He further told me that the Chief of Jos, Mallam Rwang Pam is against the plan but Alhaji Ali Kazaure as the Wokirin Gari has given the order to carry it forth. Among those I saw attending the meeting at Ali Kazaure’s residence were Alhaji Gobe Zentashi, Mallam Saro Bauchi, Publicity Secretary NPC, Alhaji Isiaku Gowano, and the President of Jos branch N.P.C., also Mallam Abubakar, former M.P.
On the evening of 28th September, 1966, while I was returning from work I surprisingly saw about 500 people with strange faces, carrying matches, bows and arrows, and other dangerous weapons, in ten lorry-loads at Ali Kazaure’s residence. Some of these strange men were quartered at Ali Kazaure’s compound; others went to the house of Mallam Abubakar a former member of Parliament; and the remaining were camped at Plot B.10 under the authority of the Northern caretaker.
At about 12.00 mid-night of 28/29th September 1966, the operation started and I ran into a yard (No. A13 Ali Kazaure St.) and hid under the grass. After being for some hours there, l managed to climb up a wall and from there I saw the servants of Alhaji Ali Kazaure and Mallam Abubakar breaking the doors of Plot A, 12 Ali Kazaure Street and thereby looting the property therein. To my greatest surprise, I saw N.A. policemen in uniform with their landrover packing the property at plot B. 11 Ali Kazaure Street.
In the morning of 29th September 1966, I came out from my hiding place and with the help of a Yoruba friend who dressed me in Yoruba dress, I directed my move to the Railway station. In the streets before reaching railway station, I witnessed the killing of many Easterners, by Northern civilians; some were killed and cut into pieces and others were left naked and the male organs cut off. I passed more than 250 corpses before reaching the station.
It was not safe even for those in the station for more than 5,000 Northerners gathered there to kill a little over 350 Easterners. They succeeded to kill 28 Easterners in the railway station and wounded 106. Thank God that Mid-Western policemen were there to thwart their repeated efforts to kill all of us.
In the evening of 30th September, 1966, a Northern soldier by name Musa from Kaduna threatened us in the railway station. He should have succeeded if not an early intervention of soldiers from Mid-West, for he had already fired two shots which miraculously yielded no effect. We immediately started to contribute money ranging from £1 to £20 and collected £1,568:5:10d which we handed over the soldiers to appease their anger. We were, on receiving the money, assured of our safety.
Q. 5294: “You said Rwang Pam was known to be against it?” “Yes, even some people said that he was kidnapped before they started.”
Q. 5295: “What is the name of this President of the Town Council?” “Alhaji Ali Kazaure.”
Q. 5296: “Is he a Fulani or Tiv?” “He is almost from the same town with the late Ahmadu Bello.”
Q. 5297: “Was he elected or appointed?” “He was appointed by the former Government of the North.”
Q. 5298: “He is a Fulani from Sokoto?” “Yes.”
Q. 5300: “Alhaji Gobir Zentashi is a native of what place?” “He is also a Fulani.”
Q. 5301: “Mallam Yaro Bauchi?” “He was a former Publicity Secretary of the N.P.C. He is a Fulani.”
Kainji Dam in Ilorin Province
This is the site of the great artificial dam which is being constructed at New Bussa on the River Niger on behalf of the Federal Government. The dam is being constructed by an Italian Company, Impregilo S.P.A. The operation has drawn to it a large concentration of Easterners who provide the main bulk of the labour force. According to the evidence there were over 6,000 Easterners at the Kainji Dam.
The worst slaughter was perpetrated at the Kainji Nigeria Police Station, it was combined operation between the police and civilians. The most important witness is the 57th witness, Clement Obiefuna:
On the nights of 29th-30th September, the mass killings continued and the worst of it was at the Kainji Dam Police Station by a combined force of both the Nigerian Police (of Northern origin) and the civilians.
A Police van fitted with a loud speaker had been operating through the town informing any Easterners who wished to go back to the East to assemble at the Police Station in order that necessary arrangements could be made for their evacuation. This piece of news was received with joy by all of us, as we thought the gesture was made in good faith. It was otherwise, as our subsequent experience waste show.
When the remaining Easterners had assembled at the Police Station with their loads, we all sat down waiting for further instructions for our repatriation, little knowing that we had now come face to face with death.
It was in fact an appointment with death, for the next moment, a group of unruly Hausas appeared once more with their death-weapons and chanting war songs, grinned at us and positioned themselves strategically around the building. After a time, the policemen arrived in great number and asked us whether we were now ready to go back to our Region. We joyfully answered “Yes”. Then one of the Hausas civilians stepped out and mockingly asked us if there was anything we could do if he began to shoot us. Before we had time to answer this question, he had already let go his danegun in our midst. A frantic scramble to escape ensured. The Police participated in the killing of many of us. During this shooting, I lost a relative, Mr. Rapheal Nwabisi aged 26, a Motor Driver with impregilo S.P.A, Kainji.
The looting of our property started simultaneously with the killing. From a corner where I was, I could see the Police helping the civilians to make away with our property. All my properties were carried away.
Q. 3483: “This massacre at the Police Station Kainji Dam, what date would that be?” “On the night of the 29th September.”
Q. 3484: “Around what time?” “Between 9 o’clock and 10 p.m. it started and continued.”
Q. 3489: “Would it be correct to say that the Easterners were tricked into assembling at the Kainji Dam Police Station to enable them to massacre you?” “ Yes.”
Q. 3490: “And the trick was practised by?” “It was performed by the Police.”
Q. 3491: “You as law abiding citizens trusted the Police as your protectors?” “Yes.”
Q. 3492: “Would it be correct to say that were it not for this trick practised on you by the Police perhaps these vandals might not have had the opportunity to slaughter you as they did?” “They might not have had the opportunity to slaughter Easterners enmasse.”
Q. 3513: “Immediately before the attack on the 29th how many Easterners would you estimate gathered at the Police Station?” “Oh, very many.”
Q. 3514: “Give us an idea?” Over two thousand.” During the lengthy cross examination that followed the witness gave further details of the Police / Civilian formations preparatory to the attack.”
Q. 3530: “What happened?” “We were all outside waiting for the lorry to come and convey us home. They (the mob leaders) were inside the Police building but we did not know what they discussed. But after their discussion the Police marched them from the building to about fifty yards away from the Police office, facing the market. Then the Police left them and came back. The mob stood there singing war songs and waiting for time. I can now conclude that their discussion in the room was just in connection with how they would take positions when they came to attack because at about 9.15 p.m. they having gathered in large numbers began to come, singing their war songs, towards us. Then the policemen all carried their guns and went out side; took their positions facing them and pointing their guns as if they were going to shoot them. But still they were coming. We had at the back of our minds that the policemen would defend us but when they came near the policemen they gave them way and they came and surrounded us. Then the police at that time faced us and pointed guns at us. Then the massacre started. What happened was that if any Easterner ran towards the police the police would shoot at him. The Police was on the main road so that nobody could pass” “Who were these policemen?”
Q. 3495: “You said these policemen were Northerners?” “Yes.”
Q. 3496: “Can you be more specific.” “Can you tell where most of them came from?” “At the time when we thought things were normal at the Kainji Dam, we had many of the Police men from Kabba province but after the July incident they transferred the whole of them away. Then they brought policemen whom we did not know and were not familiar with them.”
Q. 3498: “How long before September were they transferred?” “It was between the first week in September and the middle because the new set of policemen arrived before the 15th September even with their own Assistant Superintendent of Police. He was also a new man.”
We may mention at this juncture that it was left to the Italian workers of the Impregilo Company to do the rescue work and to send some of the wounded to their hospital.
Much innocent blood was shed during these disturbances. Confidence was destroyed. The bridge of friendship between the East and these non-Hausa speaking areas which was built over years of contact and association was broken by the tragic episode of 1966.
The pogrom spread to one or two towns in the south especially Ikeja where there was a concentration of Northern troops. They fished out and shot prominent Easterners. They looted. Let us take one or two typical examples. We refer to the killing of Mr. Achilefu of the Nigeria Airways. An eye witness account was given by Lazarus Ogbonnaya Ukeje:
I am married and have four children. After the May incident, I noticed that most Ibos were sending their wives and children to the East. I heard from people in Obalende that the Hausas were saying it was coming to their turn; Ironsi was nyamiri; that Ibos had been killed and now it was coming to their turn to rule. Kanu, a townsman in Obalende, once had a fracas in his hotel there and phoned 999 for help and the police refused to help.
In July after the coup, I and Mr. Nzekwu got Alhaji Mettenden drunk. After entertaining him lavishly he said that the coup was organised between the Hausas and the Yorubas claiming otherwise how could they have done it in the West.
After the July incident, there were more armed soldiers, all Northerners; moving about the city.
Sometime in August a circular was issued stating that Federal Senior Civil Servants should not go on leave. In September I was allowed to go on a tour of the East to gather materials for Nigeria Magazine. I was to leave on 28th September. On the evening of 27th at about 7.30p.m. I left my house at Surulere Lagos to see a sister who had a baby at Ikorodu Road. On the way back at about 8.30 p.m in my car, I called at 6A Odejaiye Crescent Surulere to see Mr. Ama Achilefu who was a personnel officer in the Nigerian Airways, Ikeja. As I parked outside his house, he came out with a friend and said he had just come from my house. He asked whether I would still travel the following day which I confirmed. He asked me to try to visit his family at Umuahia and that I should tell his wife he had not time to write. He then told me that he went to the Ikeja army barracks that morning with a Northern colleague. Four days previously he had told me that he was being invited to the Army barracks because of a protest letter written to the army authorities by the management of Nigerian Airways in connection with the molestation of Airways staff mainly of Ibo origin. He told me that the Yoruba boys had been making use of the soldiers in molesting certain Ibo boys working in the Airways. There were cases of some boys who were taken away to the Army barracks, flogged and tortured for several days and released, e.g. Mr. Nwachukwu and Mr. Osakwe, all these boys eventually ran away to the East.
There were cases of 6 men who were marched out of their offices at Ikeja Airport stripped and flogged in public.
He told me that he saw a Major who was sympathetic claiming that it was bad for such occurrence to happen at an international airport and promised to do something within a few hours. The guard at the airport was changed. After that we had general discussions and he asked his sister to open the gate for him to drive off. I was about to drive away when a blue peugeot 404 followed by an army land-rover NA. 1019 full of armed soldiers drove in and parked beside us. They surrounded my car. Four men came out of the peugeot, three in Hausa civilian gowns with short automatic guns, the fourth whom I suspected to be an officer wore a shirt and trouser. The land-rover had 7 Northern soldiers with rifles in battle dress.
The officer came to me and asked whether I was Achilefu I said no. He questioned me very strongly and persistently to the point that I produced my identity card as a pressman. He asked Achilefu whether he was Achilefu. He did not answer. He asked him again and he admitted he was. He asked the number of his car, he told him. He ordered the soldiers to march him to the land-rover at gun point. After asking my name and where I worked, he said “Ah! Ukeje, another one of them.” He ordered me to lock up my car and ordered the soldiers to march me to the land-rover. The officer led the land-rover through Mushin on the Abeokuta road, half-way between Oshodi and Ikeja Airport. We pulled up and he ordered me to be brought out: then he went through the questions over again and what I was doing in Mr. Achilefu’s house at that time of the night. I answered that it was not late; that it was not yet 9.00 p.m., and that we were friends. After thinking for about one minute he said, your punishment is that you find your way from here back to your car. I thanked him and walked off. I had hardly done 20 yards when he shouted “Ukeje! Ukeje! come back!” I walked back to him and he said “We shall take you back to your car.” I protested saying I could easily get transport back. The soldiers told me to shut-up and marched me back into the land-rover. We were driven to the Ikeja residential area where Airways officials lived. We stopped in front of a house and he asked Achiiefu whether he knew the owner. He said did not. The officer said “You do not know one of your best friend’s house?” He walked into the compound followed by the three armed soldiers in Hausa dress. He knocked at the door and a lady answered from upstairs. The officer asked for the owner of the house saying he had an appointment with him in his office the following day and had come to confirm it. The woman answered that the owner of the house was not in. She also asked who were those men with you. He said they were showing him the way round. I understood later it was the house of one Mr. Amechi Airways Engineer. For an hour we drove round Ikeja checking all cars for the car of Mr. Amechi. After that we drove past Agege, after Agriculture Research Centre we stopped first beyond the Army check point. The officer ordered Mr. Achilefu to be brought out. He was taken about 50 yards away by the officer and two uniformed soldiers. After about 3 minutes they led him back and he looked very very disturbed. The officer reversed his car and drove towards Lagos. We drove in the land-rover heading towards Otta. I shouted at the corporal in charge asking ‘where are you taking us.’ The soldiers shouted at me to shut up. I couldn’t all this time speak to Mr. Achilefu. After this I stepped on Mr. Achilefu’s toes and signalled asking what was happening. (It was full moon). He signalled that he did not know. He asked for permission to speak to me and they refused.
After 3 miles, we got to the forest area. The land-rover stopped in a desolated area, no persons, or traffic around. The corporal examined the area for persons. He ordered the driver to reverse the land-rover to face the Lagos road. After that the soldiers jumped out of the land-rover and surrounded it. We were ordered out. We refused to leave. They threatened to prod us with the gun muzzle. So we came out and stood beside the land-rover. They asked us to go towards the corporal, and formed a semi-circle facing us. The corporal raised his rifle and adjusted the range. Then I realised they were going to shoot us. I was scared and bitter and decided not to stand and be shot at. I dashed for the bush, passing through the soldiers, I took three long strides and hit my head on a tree and fell. A split second later, a bullet slammed into the tree. The noise was deafening. I thought I had been hit. I rolled over, got on my hands and knees and ran on all fours. Bullets rained into the bush, I went down lower and kept running. The proper forest was 75 yards beyond the road. I tore my white shirt off and threw it away. It was too difficult to run because of the tangled growth, so I crawled on my stomach until I collapsed. The shooting must have started at about 10.30 p.m. I recovered the use of my limbs at about 3.30 a.m. I walked back to the road, crossed to the other side and walked for 4 miles inside the cocoa and colanut plantations. I stopped at about 6.45 at a plantation.
The body of Mr. Achilefu riddled with bullet shots was recovered by the police next day. One of the victims of flogging was Francis A.E. Osakwe, a flight Pilot with the Nigerian Airways. He was beaten at intervals of 2 hours with belts and gun butts and was compelled to load corpses of those killed by these soldiers into tipper lorries.