Magazine article New Internationalist

Dictators Beware: Nigeria Puts Its Past on Trial [Nigeria Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Dictators Beware: Nigeria Puts Its Past on Trial [Nigeria Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission]

Article excerpt

These days Nigerians are asking rather a lot of uncomfortable questions. Is it true that General Oladipo Diya, who was number two to the late General Sani Abacha, attempted to overthrow his leader and thereby earned the death sentence? Who planted the bomb that nearly killed Diya at Abuja airport a few days before he was arrested?

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Questions like these, which have puzzled chroniclers of Nigeria's recent political history, are gradually being answered, courtesy of a Nigerian version of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that is raking up evidence on some of the country's most sensational political cases.

Known as the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, it is chaired by a former Supreme Court judge, Chukwudifu Oputa. It could yet prove highly explosive.

It has already heard evidence from President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was elected in February 1999 as the first civilian leader in 15 years. At the hearing Obasanjo announced that he had forgiven the military officer whose false evidence had implicated him in an attempted coup against Abacha and thereby earned him the death sentence.

This reconciliation of former enemies has chalked up plus marks for the Commission.

It has now summoned Obasanjo's immediate predecessor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to face questions on the death in custody of Chief Moshood Abiola, who won the presidential election of 12 June 1993 but was never allowed by the military to take office. The summons is in response to a petition by the family of Abiola, who died on 7 July 1998 - 29 days after the death of Abacha, who had imprisoned him. …

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