There is evidence before us which tends to implicate the then British High Commissioner Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce. He was the British High Commissioner in Nigeria for the greater part of 1966 and held the post at least as from 1964. He was based in Lagos like all other ambassadors. Lagos was and still is the capital of Nigeria. It was the seat of the Federal Military Government. In the third week of May 1966 Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce chose to visit the North and was in fact, according to the evidence, in the North when widespread riots broke out on May 29th. The official organ of the Northern Nigerian Government, the New Nigerian, carried an editorial comment on Sir Francis’ visit in its issue of the 21st May, 1966. This editorial was tendered in evidence as Exhibit JEE/153 and we find it interesting enough to reproduce it hereunder.
An Envoy’s Visit
The British High Commissioner, the Hon. Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce is now touring the North. While here, he will talk to many Northerners at every level.
We hope that in these discussions there will be a minimum of ‘platitudes’ and a maximum of plain speaking. Sir Francis will be inspecting several institutions in which his government has an interest or to which it has contributed generously.
He will be anxious to re-assure the British Government that money allocated to the various projects in the fields of education and development is being spent usefully and wisely.
One of the biggest projects which he will visit is the new engineering block at Ahmadu Bello University, now under construction. Britain has contributed more than half a million pounds towards the cost of this.
We hope that Sir Francis will go away assured that this money is well spent. Nigeria desperately needs engineering technical experts and scientists. The new engineering unit will help to fill this need.
It is by giving assistance in such fields that Britain can best help Nigeria. Joint co-operation in training establishments to provide the skilled and highly educated society which the North needs, strengthens the ties between the two countries.
Although considerable help has already been given the need is still great. We hope that in their talks local administrators will be able to tell Sir Francis of other projects which are worthy of assistance.
During his discussions we hope Sir Francis will learn something of the feeling and opinions of the North regarding international and other issues in which Britain is involved. It is Sir Francis’s job to convey these to the British Government and if the North has strong feelings on various matters which feature in headlines, this is the opportunity to pass them on.
We believe that Sir Francis and Lady Cumming-Bruce will both have the opportunity for frank and free discussions. Nothing but good, for both countries, can ensue from this”
There was no evidence whether during his discussions with ‘local administrators’ the High Commissioner learnt “something of the feeling and opinions of the North regarding international and other issues in which Britain is involved….’’ but there was evidence that while in Kano he visited a club called the Nasara Club. According to the evidence of the 125th witness, Paul Ihekoronye Okwawa this Club was formed around March, 1966. This witness was a tutor at the Ibo Union Grammar School, Kano. He left Kano for the United Kingdom on some teacher’s course and returned in December, 1965. He gave the origin of the this Club as follows:-
I arrived Kano from the United Kingdom on 21st December, 1965. Two days later, two Northern Nigerian friends informed me that on the 17th January 1966 all the Ibos in the North would be attacked. When I asked them who was planning the attack I was fold that the N.P.C. were organising it. The President Ibo Union confirmed it. We were all living in such terrible fear until the 15th January coup relieved us of our mental strain. The common people in Kano were jubilant. But the ex-ministers, ex-politicians, Syrians, Arabs and other expatriates particularly the English, were furious. They immediately started their campaign of hate against the Ibo. They attended meetings, contributed money to avenge ‘this heinous crime committed by these strangers (Ibos) at our gate’. Sometime in March an exclusive Club Nasara Club was formed near Fagge. All the Kano ex-politicians were members – Aminu Kano, Alhaji Maitama Sule, Musa Gashash, Inua Wada, prominent Syrians and Arab personalities and a few expatriate civil servants. Many prominent Ibos who applied for membership were refused admission. In all their subsequent meetings in this Club Aminu Kano presided. His Secretary was the English Born Provincial Secretary Mr. Nelson.
The evidence linked this Club with the riots that started on the 29th May, 1966. This witness learnt a lot about the activities of this Club from a Mustapha Garba, an ex-student of the Ibo Union Grammar School and the son of Musa Gashash an ex-Minister of Lands and Survey in the former Northern Regional Government and a prominent member of the Club. We must point out however that it is not certain whether Sir Francis was aware of the subversive undertone of this Club. There was evidence however that he also attended a meeting held at the Muslim Congress Headquarters Kaduna. There was evidence that from 19th May until the eruption of riots at Kaduna on the 29th May, the building was converted into a meeting place for ex-politicians and top civil servants. It was one of these meetings that the High Commissioner attended.
The witness on this point is Joseph Afamefuna Egonu, the 70th witness, an employee of the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, Kaduna.
The May riots marked the beginning of the 1966 Pogrom. Some of the forces at work have emerged. We now turn to other forces involved in this network.
Emirs, Ex-Politicians, Civil Servants and Native Authority Functionaries
The evidence reveals the involvement of most of the Emirs especially in areas dominated by the Hausa/Fulani aristocracy – Katsina in Katsina Emirate, Zaria in Zaria Emirate, Gombe in Gombe Emirate, Gusau in Sokoto Emirate, Bauchi in Bauchi Emirate and of course Kaduna the capital territory. This involvement became all the more pronounced after the Conference of Emirs and Chiefs which met at Kaduna in early June after the May riots to consider among other things the way and means to bring peace to the country particularly the North.
The May riots which erupted on the 29th May 1966 and continued to the 30th and 31st May seemed to have abated by 1st June. The Conference of Emirs and Chiefs and other prominent personalities in the North started about 1st June and ended around the 3rd June. Riots of a more violent nature resulting in more severe lootings and greater loss of lives again erupted simultaneously in such important towns as Katsina, Gusau, Bauchi, Gombe, and Kaura Namoda around the 4th June. This point was made by many witnesses who testified before us or submitted written statements.
In their petition dated 6th June addressed to the then Supreme Commander Major-General Aguiyi-lronsi and endorsed to all the Military Governors (Exhibit JI/7) the Students of Eastern Nigeria origin at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria at page 5 under the heading ‘Pertinent Questions’ had this to say:
As per Radio announcement on Sunday 5/06/66, fresh outbreak of violence, looting and rioting occurred in Katsina, Gombe and Kaura Namoda in Northern Provinces. Assuming that the Northern Emirs held in good faith their meeting with the Provincial Governor of the North on 1st June, 1966, and that their decision to sue for peace amongst their subjects was taken too in good faith why should there be more violent uprisings in Katsina Emirate belonging to the Provincial Governor’s father? Why must these Emirs go back to organise more looting, killing and pillaging? The country requires an answer to this conspiracy very urgently.
Could the Northern Emirs deny intimate knowledge of this plot to kill and destroy? If not, who organised the demonstration in their emirates, and could such be organised without their knowledge and consent. If they pretend ignorance of what would be the ultimate result of their demonstration, what effective role did they play to restrain their subjects from looting, killing and pillaging?
We now turn to consider the role played by the Emirs and these other forces in the various emirates.
Katsina is the capital of the Katsina Emirate. The Emir of Katsina is the father of the Military Governor of Northern Nigeria, Lt. Colonel Hassan Katsina. Four principal witnesses gave evidence of the disturbances in the May riots in Katsina. They are Enock Ejikeme (26th Witness), Vincent Modebelu (27th Witness), James Aka (139th Witness), and Mrs. Cecilia Mabel Anebunwa.
The 26th witness Enoch Ejikeme lived in Katsina for 15 years from 1951 to June 1966 when he was compelled by the disturbances to flee the North. He owns a storey building near the Emir’s palace. He has this to say:
I am a native of Ojoto. Katsina is perhaps the area worst affected by the disturbances even though there was a deliberate attempt to play down the seriousness of the situation there both during and after the disturbances. I am willing to appear before the Tribunal to give evidence about what I saw during the disturbances.
It was about 2 a.m. – 4 a.m. in the early morning of 29/5/66 when a large number of Hausas started collecting in the Emir’s palace. Round about 6 a.m. in the morning they all burst out from the palace carrying sticks, matchets, daggers, axes etc. and all other dangerous weapons, spread themselves all over the town looting and burning houses and shops. Some of the N.A. Police took active part while others made no attempt to bring the situation under control. This attack was directed against people of Southern Nigerian origin with the exclusion of Yorubas. One Mr. Joseph of Udi was stabbed to death that very morning. While the attack continued the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Osman Nagogo; the former Northern Minister Alhaji Isa Kaita; Alhaji Musa Tafida Yaradua, former Federal Minister of Lagos Affairs and Magaji Gari the Emir’s son were parading the town up and down cheering them up. My two big shops and stores were all looted as well as my residence. Not a pin was left for me. They even swept the rooms, shops and stores with brooms. The telephone number 152 Katsina in one of my shops was removed. They moved in gangs and each numbered about 300-400 people.
Towards the evening every Southerner resident in Katsina had been rendered homeless, hopeless and penniless. We were therefore evacuated by N.A. Police to a place two miles from the town. We numbered over two thousand including women and children, we were not allowed to move out from the compound which had but one gate. We suffered from both hunger and fear.
One Monday, 30/5/66, the Military Governor of the Northern Group of Provinces summoned the meeting of Emirs and Chiefs to state their grievances. So on the 31/5/66 the Emir left for Kaduna to attend the meeting, and it was alleged that the Emir on leaving for Kaduna, ordered his men not to tamper with our lives yet pending his return and the result of their meeting. On Wednesday 1/6/66; the Nigerian Army arrived at the scene and we were released forthwith. So on the following Thursday and Friday 2nd and 3rd respectively some of us fled to Kano. On that very Friday (3/6/66) afternoon the Emir returned from Kaduna and on Saturday 4/6/66 no Southerner was allowed to leave the town.
Those who managed to escape were pursued and many of them slaughtered on the way. The violence was therefore renewed and the worst inhuman acts were performed on that Saturday 4/6/66.
The Emir again took the lead together with his team comprising Alhaji Isa Kaita – former Northern Minister of Education, Alhaji Musa Tafida Yaradua former Federal Minister of Lagos Affairs, Magajin Gari, Lt. Col. Kasina’s twin brother, the Emir’s son.
The climax was reached when southerners seeing what was happening ran and took refuge in the Nigerian Police charge office. These people were locked inside and the office which was packed full with refugees was set on fire and was burnt to ashes together with all the refugees therein. This Saturday episode affected many Government employees who could not leave the town without the consent of their employers as well as the independent business people who were tied down by their business links or otherwise. None was left alive except a few of us whom God hid away out of their sight, who live now to tell the story.
Another devilish plan worthy of note was that as soon as the Saturday massacre started the Katsina Provincial Secretary instead of telephoning to Kano to bring the armies chose to ride on his car to Kano a distance of 108 miles in order to bring the army by himself. The trick lies in the fact that before he could return to Katsina with the armed forces the operation had been completed and many lives lost.
The fact that a large and unknown number of people were burnt alive in Police Charge Office made it highly impossible for anybody to give an accurate figure of the deaths; also many were killed and hidden away and many thrown into wells and pits.
The gruesome incident of the burning of Nigeria police building at Katsina was confirmed by Mrs. Mabel Anebunwa (235th Witness) whose husband Mr. D.G. Anebunwa was one of the victims. She watched him die. Her evidence deserves reproduction.
I am Mrs. Cecilia Mabel Anuebunwa. I joined my husband at Katsina on 4/08/62 and returned to the East on 18/06/1966 after my husband was murdered on 4/06/66. I have two children. My husband had three children by the first wife who died earlier. I am now caring for those three children in addition to my two.
My husband was a first class clerk in the Ministry of Agriculture, Katsina, and also a Special Constable. On 4/06/66, he returned suddenly to inform me that the incident of looting which occurred on 29/05/66 was being repeated. I immediately backed my baby and together we escaped to the nearest Police station while we were pursued by armed civilians. We were admitted inside by the Police station. Thereupon the mob attacked the shutters with knives and axes. The Police warned them not to attack the station but Mallam Magajin Gari (Lt. Col. Hassan Katsina’s twin brother) retorted warning the Police not to disturb the civilians who were carrying out the orders of the Emir. The rioters were thenceforth unfettered and they broke inside through the doors and windows and started to kill people indiscriminately, and one of the victims was my husband, Mr. D.G. Anebunwa.
Many other women and I went to appeal to Magajin Gari (Hassan’s twin brother) but he said they could not disobey the Emir. About 18 men were victims. Their corpses were burnt followed by burning of the Police station and the Government staff quarters.
In the evening, the women were conveyed in Police truck to the N.A. Police station where we stayed for some days. Later we were taken to an unfinished hotel building where the Red Cross supplied us food and some baby clothing.
I left Katsina to Kano on 9/06/66 to meet my husband’s brother. On 14/06/66 I left Kano for the East. One Rev Father X was very kind to victims. He helped many wounded people to the hospital until he was seriously warned by one Mr. Mc Namara (a British) that if he continued he (Father X) would be attacked for transparently taking side with Easterners. It was in this Mc Namara’s house that several night meetings were held. Mr. Mc Namara was soul and body in the planning of the pogrom.
This witness was questioned closely. In one of the questions she had this to say:
Q. 8771: “You actually saw Magajin Gari with your own eyes in that Police Station?” “Yes, I saw him. My husband was working with them. This Magajin Gari was N.A. (Native Authority) Police Officer, so my husband was working with them. He used to come to our house frequently in connection with his work. So that when this thing happened l went with other women, appealed to the man and begged him to stop the rioters. He said that he will not do so and that it was an order from the Emir. And Emir is his father.”
From Katsina the disturbances spread to other towns in Katsina emirate – Funtua, Mallumfashi, Tsiga etc. In these towns the story of the direct involvement of the Emir in the disturbances is told again and again by the witnesses. The death toll in Katsina emirate will be seen in the chapter on the loss of lives.