In view of the strong allegation made in their petitions and in their oral evidence we were at pains to cross examine these witnesses closely and in detail and they impressed us favourably. They certainly knew what they were talking about. They were educated and appeared very responsible in the witness box. Mr. L. I. Okonkwo, the 1st witness is 30 years old and did law at the Institute of Administration Zaria for the period 1962 to June 1966. Mr. J. U. P. O. Ifediora did architecture at the Ahmadu Bello University for the period 1960 to 1966. Mr. S. W.A.N. Onuoha is aged 40, married with four children and did architecture at Ahmadu Bello University. It is also significant that they submitted their petitions to the authorities implicating these foreigners in June, 1966, when the May riots were still on or just ended and the facts about the organisers and perpertrators still fresh in most minds.
We refer also the evidence of Dr. Gordian O. Ezekwe (witness No. 246). He was a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering Ahmadu Bello University Zaria from 1959 to August 1966. His evidence lent cogency to the evidence of the University students. We are tempted to reproduce parts of his evidence for the important information it contains. His written statement is Exhibit GOE/438. Incidentally he is married to a Northerner.
“Dr. G. O. Ezekwe, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Formerly Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Born at Abagana, Njikoka, 1929. Married, one adopted child. Resided in Samaru, Zaria 1959 -1966. Finally left Zaria August 5th, 1966.”
“I witnessed the Sunday May 29th disturbances at Samaru, Zaria. I observed actions carried out against Easterners at Samaru Village from the neighbourhood of my house which was situated just across the road from the village. Looting of merchandise, smashing of houses and property and attacks on the persons of people of Eastern Nigeria origin occured on the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning. The only petrol station in Samaru village, belonging to an Efik man, Mr. Okon Ikete (present address not known), was ransacked and monies removed. Native Authority Police accompanying the looters were seen taking share of this money. These same native authority police indicated to the mob which houses to attack in Samaru village. But a house under construction opposite mine, belonging to the Officer in charge Nigerian Police, Zaria, was throughout the disturbances guarded by Nigeria Police constables, numbering at various times from two to four. These constables had no identification numbers. The B.W.A. (Bank of West Africa) branch in Samaru was also protected from attack by police posted there. The mob tried to attack it. It is particularly to be remarked that the same ‘Nigeria Police’ did not lift a finger to discourage the mob elsewhere.
When I telephoned the Army on the Sunday, I was asked to contact the Nigeria Police Zaria. When I telephoned the police, I was told that the situation was being brought under control.
Persons were killed in Samaru on the Tuesday morning. Bloody violence wrought by Hausa mobs and fierce Tuaregs from the Republic of Niger who had been employed by the University as night guards. The Arabs operated with spears while the Hausa thugs wielded choppers and clubs. An Easterner with a leg nearly severed from the region of the buttocks sprawled on the road side near my house for nearly two hours before an ambulance picked him up. Several Easterners in Samaru were saved by Hausa neighbours.
In Zaria itself, the story was worse since there was more value to the property and merchandise which were vulnerable to damage, arson and looting. Easterners were killed in Sabon Gari but some of these fought back most gallantly when they realised that law enforcement officers, if anything, aided the rascals. (The army did not emerge from their barracks until the Wednesday).
Buses arriving from Kaduna were halted by the mob at Tudun-Wada and the passengers were sorted out for Easterners who were then slaughtered. Easterners working at the Wusasa Mission Hospital were attacked and some of them had to put up a fierce and protracted battle before they were rescued. Patients and Easterner staff were murdered at the General Hospital, Tudun-Wada. A prominent Easterner – employee of the General Hospital (Mr. Venn) was fetched from his residence to the hospital, on the pretext of his being needed for emergency work. He was killed in the hospital.
Having witnessed what happened in Samaru and seen victims of the atrocities in the neighbouring towns and villages Sabon Gari, Zaria, Tudun-Wada, Shika, Funtua, it was quite clear to me that this was the end of the road so far as the unity towards which the Military Government was working was concerned. This view was further strengthened when reports were received of similar atrocities in many other Hausa speaking areas of the North, notably Gusau, Sokoto, Katsina, Kano and parts of Bauchi…
The May atrocities were not a case of a popular rebellion by an oppressed people nor were they a case of a protest getting out of hand. Rather it showed how easily the average Hausa man could be used by professional Moslem politicians, ambitious students and empire-building expatriates to prevent any attempt at modernisation of the social structure of the North. The atrocities were not spontaneous but represented the fulfilment of a pre-laid plan to break up the country into separate states, though of a nature that suited the interests of the Northern elite.
An unplanned demonstration would not erupt almost simultaneously in so many towns spread over hundreds of miles of bad roads. If it did, it would not erupt practically on the spot on the tick of the clock in places as small as Pambogua, Akwanga, Giwa. If by the remotest chance it did, why did it take the same form in all these places – attacks on Christian units, on persons and property, non-molestation of Yorubas, road-blocks, connivance by law-enforcement officers?
Decree No 34 was not the cause of the May atrocities but was only responsible for accelerated implementation of carefully laid plans. The four days separating general publication of this decree and May 29th were about the minimum time required for all local organisers to be instructed. Thus I had accidentally seen Mallam Sanni of Zaria, N.A., a friend of mine normally resident in the old city of Zaria, going from house to house on the Saturday night (May 28th) and on foot. That he spent only a matter of three or four minutes in each compound which he entered showed that all he did was deliver a message and that this message was short. This man, who came practically every day to my house (being married to the daughter of the village Head in whose village my wife was born), had often told me before Decree 34 that civil war was unavoidable.
The University students of Northern origin at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, played a prominent role in the organisation and carrying out of the atrocities of May 29th. At the first visit of Major Hassan Katsina after the January coup, when a good fraction of intelligent Hausas were still happy at the refreshing turn brought about by January 15th, a secret unsigned anti-East and particularly anti-Ibo memorandum was filtered to Usman Katsina in the name of Northern students only, because it was not only extremely illogical in content but was full of glaring errors of grammar. Although Katsina roundly condemned the role that students were playing in politics (without indicating what prompted him) yet Northern students proceeded to hold interminable night meetings, in their hostel rooms at the main campus, at the Institute of Administration, sometimes in the homes of some expatriate members of staff. During the Easter vacation, they dispersed in all directions to the villages and to the schools. It must be recollected that the demonstrations that ushered in the May killings did not only see Northern civil servants and N.A. employees taking part, but also school children were turned into the streets by their teachers….
Looting and attack on Easterners were supervised in Samaru and Zaria by students of the University. I was told that some of the “student returned to the hostel rooms with loot. Some of these students had to pass my house on their way to Zaria early that Sunday morning. My Hausa steward witnessed two students handing their bicycles to some Hausa security guards near my house, asking them to keep them if they (students) failed to return. Looting and violence did not start in Samaru until some students and N.A. Police drove back from Zaria. They arrived with a truck load of thugs, the truck being recognised as one of the University fleets.
Many British members of the University staff at Zaria helped in creating chaos by either acting patrons to Northern students, or spreading rumours designed to cause alarm and despondency, or by preaching outright treason. It was known that Englishmen held regular meetings in the house of Mr. A. J. Creedy, Reader, Head of the Department of English. That these meetings only started after January 15th and that they did not take their cars along, showed their purpose to be sinister. Two notices circulated to students and staff by Mr. S. S. Richardson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Director of the Institute of Administration, immediately after January 15th, practically prayed for violent disturbances to take place after the moslem fast, an event against which students and staff should be prepared according to him. Mr. B. W. Tiffen (British Council) of the Department of Education, held sessions to midnight with selected Northern students in his house, under the pretext of conversation evenings. This was the man who, on the Sunday morning when the disturbances erupted, rushed to my house where he excitedly offered Sanni some compensatory money for the accommodation which he had long previously cancelled. He was so excited that he completely ignored me, which was unlike him. But the actual timing of the operation was coming, he confessed that though he knew that trouble was coming, he thought it would be during the long vacation when staff had gone away on leave. Old timers, typified by Botany Professor F. W. Sansome, intensified their campaign against the East and Ibos, even in the open. English men were invited from the Ministries in Kaduna to speak to students of the Institute of Administration who were practically all Northerners. This was not unusual but it was known that these speakers delivered lessons in counter-revolution as from January 15th. The first few of these saboteurs were known to have been booed down by students when they (the speakers) challenged the legality of the new Military Regime. Major Boyle emerged as the local leader of the expatriate imperialist elements. And he was in a position to play an effective role because he controlled University labour force. This is the man who told an aggrieved Eastern worker under him to go back to his own country (meaning the East). His minions were Sgt. Major Alhaji Dosso (Chief Security Officer) and Alhaji Musa Tasawa (Transport Officer) both of whom, as far as I know originally came from Niger. The success of the hatching and execution of the atrocities, and especially after, these men ran an interminable “shuttle service between the campus and the Agricultural Stations in Samaru (which had established itself as the nerve centre of N.P.C. plots) scarcely/allowing those of those of us living by the road to sleep.
It was after the May visit of the British High Commissioner (a man whom expatriate staff were able to meet but not any Nigerian Staff that I know of) that I realised how general must be the feeling among English staff that the East should go out of the Federation. In arguing over the unusual manner in which the Commissioner had been received with a couple of my British colleagues who were known for their moderation and reasonableness, I was stunned to hear them declare that Easterners resident in the North should go back to the East and apply their technical ability there, that the future of the North lay in agriculture. And these were teaching staff in Mechanical Engineering. Some expatriates allowed their zeal to drive them into taking actual part in the demonstration or the violence that followed. Major Boyle is know to have displayed photographs of Ahmadu Bello on his car in Zaria. Mr. R. B. Walker, Technical Curator in Zoology, made trips from Samaru to the University orchard carrying thugs who cut themselves monstrous clubs (Samaru village had not many low-branched trees). But I understand that Walker has since resigned and gone. After the May atrocities, English staff tried to sell the idea that British forces should be asked in.
The involvement of Nigerian lecturing staff of Northern origin was not as patent as that of students and expatriates. But that some of them knew that atrocities were planned was clear to me after the event.
Signed G. O. Ezekwe