Leaked [Police] Special Branch Report:
"Military Rebellion of 15th January 1966"
By Nowamagbe Omoigui, MD, MPH, FACC
None of the soldiers and officers involved had come to formal trial in a court-martial as of the time of the July 29 1966 "counter-coup". Indeed the fact they were not court-martialed was one of the grievances listed by those officers who carried out the unfortunate operations of July 28-August 1, 1966.
The coup report
was released to very few individuals in Nigeria and certain foreign governments
in early August 1966 - and then leaked. The remainder of the report which
allegedly implicated certain other persons has apparently never been released
widely to this day. It exists, we are on its trail - and shall publish
it on sight.
1. Due to unforeseen circumstance it has not been possible, so far, to inform the nation fully of events which took place in the Federation on 15th January 66 at Lagos, Ibadan, and Kaduna, events which were directly responsible for further military action on the 29th July 66.
2. It will be appreciated that events of this nature require prolonged, painstaking investigation. It is realized that the absence of legitimate information on this subject has produced a flood of undesirable rumours and speculation. It is, however, pointed out that without thorough investigation, the wisdom of any premature releases, unsupported by fact, was questionable.
3. Investigations have not yet been completed but it is now possible to put the nation, and the world, in possession of the facts so far collected. The civilian involvement and influence in the whole affair is not as far as possible, included in this report.
4. It has been established that sometime during August 1965, a small group of army officers, dissatisfied with political developments within the federation, began to plot in collaboration with some civilians, the overthrow of what was then the Government of the Federation of Nigeria. The plan which eventually emerged from their deliberations was that on a date not yet decided at the time, the following action would be taken by troops from selected units, led by the ringleaders of the plot:
a). The arrest of leading politicians at Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Enugu and Benin. The plan stipulated that wherever resistance was encountered, the individuals concerned were to be killed.
b). The occupation of key points such as radio and TV stations, telephone exchange and other public utilities, police headquarters and signal installations, by carefully selected troops who were not, however, to be informed in advance of the true nature of their operations.
c). The movement of troops and armoured fighting vehicles to Jebba and Makurdi to hold the Benue and Niger Bridges with a view to preventing the movement of any troops, opposed to the plotters' aims, to and from the North.
d). The assassination of all senior army officers known to be in a position to foil, successfully, the conspirators' efforts to topple the governments of the federation.
e). The eventual take-over of the machinery of government by the rebels.
5. Although the original plan stipulated that the action intended by the plotters should take place, simultaneously, in all the Regional capitals, no arrangements were made to implement these intentions in Benin and Enugu.
6. The date on which the plot was to be put into execution was decided by several factors. These include the return of the Premier of Northern Nigeria from Mecca and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference held at Lagos between the 11th and 13th January 66. An additional factor was the possibility that details of the plotters intentions might have leaked out, necessitating early implementation of the plot. In this manner, the night of 14th to 15th January was finally selected.
7. The action which was well planned and conducted like a military operation was, in its first stages efficiently carried out.
8. Immediately before "H" hour, which has been set for 2am on the 15th January, a number of junior officers were taken into the confidence of the ringleaders of the plot. It is known that a number of these were reluctant to comply with the wishes of the plotters. Confirmed information indicates that it was made clear to these junior officers that those who were not with the conspirators would be regarded as being opposed to them and might suffer death as a consequence.
9. Non commissioned ranks involved in the night's activities at Lagos, Kaduna and Ibadan, were given no previous information of the true nature of the action in which they were about to be engaged.
10. The activities of the rebels, commencing at 2am on 15th January 66, resulted in the deaths of the following personalities:
a. Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Prime Minister of the Federation of Nigeria.
b. Chief F. S. Okotie-Eboh, Finance Minister of the Federation.
c. Brigadier Z. Mai-Malari, Commander of the 2nd Brigade NA
d. Colonel K. Mohammed, Chief of Staff Nigerian Army
e. Lieut-Colonel A. C. Unegbe, Quartermaster General.
f. Lieut-Colonel J.T. Pam, Adjutant General, Nigerian Army
g. Lieut-Colonel A. Largema, Commanding Officer 4th Battalion Ibadan
h. S. L. Akintola, Premier of Western Nigeria
i. Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Nigeria
j. Brigadier S. Ademulegun, Commander of the 1st Brigade NA
k. Colonel R. A. Shodeinde, Deputy Commandant, Nigerian Defence Academy
l. Ahmed Dan Musa, Senior Assistant Secretary (Security) to the North Regional Government
m. Sergeant Duromola Oyegoke of the Nigerian Army
n. The senior wife of Sir Ahmadu Bello
o. The wife of Brigadier Ademulegun
11. In addition to the foregoing, four members of the Nigeria Police, one junior NCO of the Nigerian Army, and an estimated number of six civilians lost their lives during the night's events. One major of the Nigerian Army was accidentally shot and killed at Ibadan on the 17th January 66, bringing the total loss of life to twenty-seven.
12. Apart from the aforementioned killings, a number of political leaders and civil servants were arrested by the plotters and detained in military establishments at Lagos and Kaduna. These included:
a. Sir Kashim Ibrahim - at the time Governor of Northern Nigeria
b. Alhaji Hassan Lemu - Principal Private Secretary to the Premier of Northern Nigeria.
c. Aba Kadangare Gobara - Assistant Principal Private Secretary to the Premier of Northern Nigeria.
B. A. Fani-Kayode - at the time Deputy Premier of Western Nigeria.
DETAILS OF THE EVENTS ARE AS FOLLOWS:
13. In August 1965, three officers, Major Okafor, Major Ifeajuna and Captain Oji who were already dissatisfied with political developments in the Federation and the impact of these developments on the Army, held series of discussions between them about the matter and set about the task of searching for other officers who held views similar to their own and who could, eventually, be trusted to join them in the enterprise of staging a military coup d'Etat.
14. In September 1965, Major I. H. Chukwuka of Nigerian Army Headquarters Lagos was persuaded to join the group of conspirators, followed in October 1965 by Major C. I. Anuforo, also of the Army headquarters. Major C. K. Nzeogwu was brought in around that time through the efforts of Major Anuforo, an old friend of both Majors Nzeogwu and Okafor. Major Nzeogwu in turn secured the support for the plan of Major A. Ademoyega who had worked with him in the Nigerian Army Training College Kaduna.
15. By early November the recruiting activities of the group were completed and an inner circle of conspirators emerged, consisting of the following officers:
Major CK Nzeogwu
Major A. Ademoyega
Major EA Ifeajuna
Major CI Anuforo
Major IH Chukwuka
Major D. Okafor
Captain O. Oji
Planning for the execution of the plot started in earnest in early November 1965 at a meeting of the inner circle which took place in Major Ifeajuna's house in Lagos.
16. The plan which eventually emerged from their deliberations was broadly as follows:
a. The arrest of VIPs at Kaduna, Ibadan, Lagos, Enugu and Benin. The plan stipulated wherever resistance to arrest was encountered, the individuals concerned were to be killed
b. The occupation of vulnerable points such as Radio and TV stations, telephone exchange, police signals installations, airfields and civilian administrative establishments, by carefully selected troops who were not, however, to be informed in advance of the purpose of their operations.
c. The movement of troops to Jebba and Makurdi to hold the Niger and Benue bridges against any movement of troops opposed to the plotters' aims, to and from the North.
d. The killing of all senior army officers who were in a position to foil successfully the conspirators efforts to topple the Governments of the Federation and who resided in the areas of operations.
e. The eventual take-over of the machinery of Government by the Army.
17. Amongst the civilian VIPs scheduled for arrest, the following have been named:
a. The Prime Minister of the Federation
b. The Federal Finance Minister
c. The Premiers of Northern, Western, Midwestern and Eastern Nigeria.
18. Additional personalities scheduled to be arrested in Lagos were the following:
a. K. O. Mbadiwe
b. Jaja Wachuku
c. Inua Wada
d. Shehu Shagari
e. T. O. Elias
f. Ayo Rosiji
g. M. A. Majekodunmi
h. Mathew Mbu
i. Richard Akinjide
j. Waziri Ibrahim
19. Other ranking politicians were to be placed in house arrest pending a decision as to their disposal and eventual fate.
20. Events have shown that other political figures including the Deputy Premier of Western Nigeria, the Finance Minister and the Governor of Northern Nigeria were scheduled to be arrested.
21. The conspirators further decided that the following senior army officers represented a threat to their plans and must be killed during the first hours of the rebellion:
Brigadier Z. Mai-Malari - Lagos
Brigadier S. Ademulegun - Kaduna
Colonel K. Mohammed - Lagos
Colonel R. A. Shodeinde - Kaduna
Lt. Col. A. Largema - Ibadan
Lt. Col. A. C. Unegbe - Lagos
Lt. Col. J.T. Pam - Lagos
NOTE: Lt. Col. Largema was the CO of 4th Battalion NA stationed at Ibadan. On 15th January 66, however, this officer was on temporary duty at Lagos, staying at the Ikoyi Hotel
22. For the actual execution of the plan, three commanders were nominated, namely:
a. Northern Nigeria Major C.K. Nzeogwu
b. Lagos Area Major E. A. Ifeajuna
c. Western Nigeria Captain E. N. Nwobosi
23. The latter officer was not a member of the inner circle and was not approached until either the 13th or 14th January 66. He was, however, well known to the conspirators who were certain that when the time came he could be relied on to cooperate.
24. The execution of the plan was to take place in three areas only, i.e. Kaduna, Ibadan and the Lagos area, although many of the participants believed the insurrection to be nation wide. It is a matter of established fact that no violent action took place in either Benin City or Enugu. It has been suggested that these areas were spared because the plotters found it impossible to recruit reliable co-conspirators in these regions. None of the officers has indicated under interrogation that any efforts to recruit collaborators in either Benin or Enugu were made. Indeed subsequent action of some of the leading officers indicated collaboration with the then Premier of Eastern region.
25. For the purposes of this report, the execution of the plan is dealt with in three main sections, namely Lagos Area, Ibadan and Kaduna. Each section is divided into incidents, showing the identities of officers and men involved.
26. The execution of the plan commenced by the calling of a meeting late on 14 January 66 of the Lagos members of the inner circle and, for the first time, of junior officers previously selected to take an active part. A number of those present had attended a cocktail party that very evening in the house of Brigadier Mai-Malari in Ikoyi. The following attended this meeting which was held in the Apapa House of Major Ifeajuna:
a. Major EA Ifeajuna
b. Major CI Anuforo
c. Major D Okafor
d. Major A. Ademoyega
e. Major IH Chukwuka
f. Captain O Oji
g. Captain GS Adeleke
h. Lt. G. Ezedigbo
i. Lt. BO Oyewole
j. 2/Lt. ES Nweke
k. 2/Lt. BO Ikejiofor
l. 2/Lt. NS Wokocha
m. 2/Lt. Igweze
27. Major Ifeajuna addressed the meeting on the subject of the deteriorating situation in Western Nigeria to which, he contended, the politicians had failed to find a solution. He added that as a result the entire country was heading toward chaos and disaster. He next acquainted the junior officers with the inner circle's plans and asked them if they were prepared to assist to put an end to this state of affairs. Major Ifeajuna claims that all present pledged their support for his plans with the exception of Captain Adeleke who was, however, later persuaded to join. It was made clear to these junior officers that those who were not with the conspirators would be regarded as being opposed to them and might suffer death as a consequence.
28. When, at the end of the meeting, it was clear that all present were in support of the rebellion, tasks and targets were issued as follows:
a. Abduction of the Prime Minister and the Federal Finance Minister: Major Ifeajuna, 2/Lt. B. Oyewole, 2/Lt. Ezedigbo
b. Killing of Colonel Mohammed and Lt. Col. Unegbe: Major CI Anuforo, 2/Lt C. Ngwuluka
c. Killing of Brigadier Mai-Malari: Major D. Okafor, Capt. O. Oji, 2/Lt. C. Igweze
d. Killing of Lt. Col. Pam: Major IH Chukuka, 2/Lt. G. Onyefuru
e. Occupation of the Control Room at FT Police HQ Lion Building: 2/Lt NS Wokocha
f. Occupation of P & T Telephone Exchange: , Lt. PM Okocha, 2/Lt. CC Anyafulu
g. Occupation of N.E.T. Building: 2/Lt DS Nweke
But there were apparent last minute change of the plans as will be shown later in this paper.
29. Troops selected for these various tasks were to be drawn from the following units (all stationed or accommodated at Apapa and Dodan barracks, Ikoyi):
a. No. 1 Signal Squadron
b. Camp - HQ 2 Brigade NA
c. Lagos Garrison Organization
d. The Federal Guard Unit
30. The Federal Guard Officers Mess at Ikoyi was named as the rallying point for all teams on completion of their tasks.
31. All other officers and other ranks to be involved, either consciously or unconsciously in the operations were called out for alleged Internal Security operations between midnight and 0100 hours to allow time for the issue of arms and ammunition and the provision of the necessary transport. With the exception of other ranks of the Federal Guard, they were all ordered to report to Headquarters of No. 2 Brigade NA in battle order, with their arms. Ammunition was issued to them by Lt. Okaka, assisted by Major Ifeajuna, RSM Ogbu of Camp 2 Bde and others.
32. Officers and men moved off to their various assignments at around 0200 hours as planned.
ABDUCTION AND ASSASSINATION OF SIR ABUBAKAR TAFAWA BALEWA
33. The party charged with the abduction of the Prime Minister (PM) left HQ 2 Bde at approximately 0200 hours. The following have been identified as members of that group:
a. Major EA Ifeajuna (in command)
b. 2/Lt. G. Ezedigbo (Federal Guard Unit)
c. 2/Lt. Oyewole (2 Brigade Transport Company)
NO. 1 SIGNAL SQUADRON
NA 84254 Cpl C. Madumelu
NA 18149591 L/Cpl . O. Achi
NA 18159447 S/Sgt. A. Ogbogara
NA 18150401 Sgt. L. Onyia
NA 500147 Sgt. BS Odunze
NA 18150392 Sgt. F Impete
NA 18150400 Sgt. I Ndukaife
NA 1856 Sgmn. S. Onwuli
NA 18149817 Cpl. P. Okoh
NA 18149084 Cpl. U Eduok
NA 18150345 Cpl. Z. Chukwu
NA 18150206 L/Cpl FI Okonkwo
NA 3775 Sgmn FN Chukwu
NA 18150443 L/Cpl RC Amadi
18159121 WO II J Onyeacha
CAMP - HQ 2 BRIGADE NA
NA 3339 Pte NA Evulobi
NA 18150137 L/Cpl S. Kanu
NA 502724 WO II L. Okoye
124643 WO I (RSM) J. Ogbu
ARMY HEADQUARTERS (LGO)
NA 504299 Sgt. J. Nwakpura
NA503865 Sgt. B. Iberesi
NA 149820 Sgt. E. Okonkwo
NOTE: The above named were not all, of necessity, directly involved in the abduction of the PM. A number of them operated on the premises of the Federal Finance Minister, adjacent to the residence of the Prime Minister
34. The small convoy reached the Onikan roundabout at approximately 0230 hours and halted near the PM's residence. Major Ifeajuna ordered all troops to leave their vehicles and divided them into three groups with targets as shown:
Major EA Ifeajuna - in command
Sgt. B. Iberesi
Sgt. J. Nwakpura
Sgt. BS Odunze
Cpl. P. Okoh
Cpl C. Madumelu
Sgmn FN Chukwu
Sgmn. S. Onwuli
FEDERAL FINANCE MINISTER
2/Lt. G. Ezedigbo - in command
WO I (RSM) J. Ogbu
L/Cpl FI Okonkwo
Cpl. Z. Chukwu
Cpl. U Eduok
Sgt. F Impete
S/Sgt. A. Ogbogara
Sgt. I Ndukaife
II L. Okoye
ON GUARD OVER VEHICLES AND APPROACH ROADS
WO II J Onyeacha - in command
L/Cpl RC Amadi
Pte NA Evulobi
L/Cpl S. Kanu
Sgt. E. Okonkwo
35. The latter group was given the task of stopping and turning back all vehicles approaching Onikan road. There is no record concerning their instructions as to what action they were to take in the event of any of the drivers refusing to obey the order to turn back.
36. The Major knocked on the gate and was answered by a policeman who was on guard inside. The Major identified himself as an Army Officer whereupon the PC (Police Constable) granted them access. The Major asked the PC how many men were on guard with him and was told that there were six. The Major then ordered the PC to show where they could be found.
The PC agreed whereupon the Major seized his rifle and passed it to one of his men. The PC then led the group to round up the remaining members of the Police guard. At the back of the house, ie. at the creek side, they found a PC armed with a rifle and accompanied by a Police dog. The Major ordered the PC to surrender his rifle, which he refused to do. He was then hit in the face by Sgt. Odunze whereupon he capitulated and surrendered his firearm.
Major Ifeajuna ordered Sgt Odunze and Cpl. Okoh to stand guard over the PC and his dog with orders to shoot both if they made an attempt to abscond or raise the alarm. All the other members were disarmed and taken to the main gate where they remained guarded by Sgt Iberesi and 2 others. They were all informed that they would be shot if they attempted to escape or raise the alarm.
Major Ifeajuna and few of his men then approached the back entrance to
the Prime Minister's residence having secured the police orderly, and the
stewards under arrest, and broke into the lounge and thence to the Prime
Minister's bedroom. A voice from the inside asked who was there.
The Major replied by kicking the door open, entering the room and pointing
his gun at the Prime Minister and thereafter led out the PM wearing a white
robe with white trousers and slippers. The PM was then led away by Major
Ifeajuna along Awolowo Road where Ifeajuna had parked his car adjacent
to the Onikan swimming pool.
ABDUCTION AND ASSASSINATION OF FS OKOTIE EBOH
38. On arrival at the Onikan roundabout, at approximately 0230 hrs on 15 Jan 66, Major Ifeajuna divided his force into three groups as shown in para 34 of this report. Major Ifeajuna and his group proceeded towards the PM's residence and 2/Lt Ezedigbo took his men to the compound of the Finance Minister. When they arrived at the front gate, they found this locked and were compelled to gain access by jumping over the wall. Inside they found a number of civilian guards, about 5, who were armed with bows and arrows. These offered no resistance and were disarmed and placed under guard. At least one policeman was encountered in the compound. He too was disarmed and escorted to the 3-Ton truck by RSM J. Ogbu.
39. 2/Lt Ezedigbo then attempted to open the front door but found this also to be locked. He broke one of the panes of glass in the door with his SMG but even failed to open the door which he finally broke down by kicking it with his boot. He then entered accompanied by the following other ranks:
WO II L Okoye
Sgt. I Ndukaife
Sgt. E. Okonkwo
Cpl. U. Eduok
Sgt. F. Impete
Before entering 2/Lt Ezedigbo ordered his men to walk quietly and to make no noise, a rather superfluous caution considering the noise which must have been made when the door was broken open. They mounted the stairs to the first floor. Having arrived there, the 2/Lt posted one man on the balcony and 3 on the landing.
40. The officer then shouted twice "Okotie-Eboh", come out". When this met with no response he entered a bedroom where he found the Minister dressed only in a loin cloth. He ordered the Minister to precede him down the stairs, and the Minister was escorted to the 3-Ton lorry. Rumors that the Minister was beaten and otherwise ill-treated on the way to the vehicle have been stoutly denied by all who took part in the operation.
41. Whilst the Finance Minister was being loaded into the 3-Tonner, the PM was escorted from his house and placed into Major Ifeajuna's car. 2/Lt Ezedigbo joined Ifeajuna whilst the ORs (other ranks) re-entered their respective vehicles. The convoy then moved off to the Federal Guard Officers' Mess, stopping en route at a point in Ikoyi where Major Ifeajuna and 2/Lt. Ezedigbo killed Brig. Mai-Malari. (editors comment: Maimalari had escaped from the team that had been sent to kill him at home)
ARREST AND ASSASSINATION OF COLONEL K. MOHAMMED AND LT. COL. A. UNEGBE
42. Meanwhile Major CI Anuforo, assisted by 2/Lt. C. Ngwuluka and the following other ranks:
NA 173629 WO II B. Okugbe - No. 1 Signal Sqn
NA 18149383 Sgt. J Oparah - No. 1 Signal Sqn
NA 1641 Cpl. C. Egwim - No. 1 Signal Sqn
NA 18149792 Cpl. E. Nwoke - No. 1 Signal Sqn
NA 18150530 L/Cpl. J Nwankpa - No. 1 Signal Sqn
NA 18151259 Pte C. Unegbu - Military Hospital, Yaba
proceeded in the two private cars of Anuforo and Ngwuluka to No. 1, Park Lane Apapa, the residence of Colonel K. Mohammed. This was then being guarded by unarmed nursing orderlies of a Field Ambulance stationed in Apapa.
43. On arrival Major Anuforo ordered all his party to leave the cars, which had stopped some distance from the house. They then advanced towards the house led by Major Anuforo. They were challenged by Pte L. Onyegbule, then on sentry-go. Major Anuforo told the sentry to "shut up" and to put up his hands. The Major then gave orders that the sentry and the other 3 members of the guard be banded together in one place in the custody of Pte. C. Unegbu, who although a member of a medical unit, was then bearing arms.
44. Major Anuforo then went to the front door of the house and knocked. It would appear that he received an answer, because he was heard shouting "You first come out and see who is knocking". With the Major at this stage was WO II B. Okugbe. When he received no further answer to his knocking, Anuforo ordered his men to cock their weapons. He then kicked open the door and entered accompanied by Cpl. E. Nwoke, WO II Okugbe and Cpl Egwim.
45. The house was searched until the Colonel was found, in night attire, in his bedroom. The Colonel was forced out of the house by Major Anuforo and the other ranks who had accompanied him, and put into Anuforo's car. It is believed that before being put into the car, the Colonel's wrists were tied with a rifle sling which was still in place when later, his dead body was discovered along the Abeokuta road.
46. Before leaving, Major Anuforo instructed the Colonel's guard to return to their unit and not to discuss what they had seen with anyone. Sgt. J Oparah and Cpl. E. Nwoke could not get into the car of Major Anuforo because of the presence of the Colonel and were odered to follow on foot to the house of Lt. Col. Unegbe, situated on Point road, Apapa, not very far away.
47. On arrival at Lt. Col. Unegbe's house, Major Anuforo entered the house alone. They heard SMG fire inside the compound and were later ordered to bring out the dead body of the Lt. Col.
48. Whilst the men were inside collecting Lt. Col. Unegbe's body, Col. Mohammed was compelled to leave the car by Major Anuforo. The latter told the Colonel to say his prayers as he was going to be shot. The Colonel did not plead for mercy or remonstrate in any other manner, but quietly prayed until he was shot in the back by Major Anuforo, using his SMG.
49. Colonel Mohammed's corpse was stowed into the boot of Major Anuforo's car while the body of Lt. Col. Unegbe was placed on the floor in the back of the car. Anuforo and his men then entered the vehicle which was driven straight to the Federal Guard Officers' Mess. At the Mess the two bodies were unloaded on the ground.
Continued in Part Two