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Tribunal Condemns 13 to Death in Nigeria

February 26, 1986

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Thirteen members of Nigeria’s military forces were sentenced to death Tuesday by a military tribunal after being convicted of plotting an abortive coup in December, Lagos radio reported.

The official radio station said two other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, four were acquitted for lack of evidence, and one senior officer was dismissed from the army.

The military government of President Ibrahim Babangida, who took power in a coup last Aug. 27, announced in December it had uncovered a coup plot among a group of officers in all branches of the military.

The radio said a military tribunal found 13 of the 20 defendants guilty of conspiracy to commit treason by forcefully overthrowing the federal military government.

The tribunal’s verdict can be appealed to the joint chiefs of staff whose decision is subject to ratification by the ruling military council.

The most prominent officer arrested was Maj. Gen. Mamman Vatsa, the former minister for the proposed federal capital of Abuja. Vatsa had been a member of the council.

He was among those facing a firing squad. Others sentenced to death are: Lieutenant colonels Chris Oche, Mike Iyorshe and Moses Effiong; Squadron Leaders Martin Luther and Asen Ahura; Majors Daniel Bamidele, Akwashiki, V.E. West, and Jonathan India Garba; Navy Commander Andrew Ogwuji; and Wing Commanders Ben Ekele and Adamu Sakaba.

The radio did not give a date for the execution.

Wing Commander Joseph Uku and Lt. Peter Odoba were sentenced to life imprisonment for not making adequate effort to notify the authorities of the coup plot.

Brig. Malami Nasarawa, former commandant of the Nigerian school of infantry, was ordered dismissed from the army for concealing the plans to overthrow the government.

Those acquitted for lack of evidence included Lt. K.G. Dapka, Squadron Leader Gabriel Ude, and Majors Anthony Sese and Chukwuka Onyeke, the radio said.

Official sources said when the alleged plot was disclosed that the participants included some senior officers who lost their governorships after Babangida took power.

The same sources said members of the northern Hausa-Fulani tribes supported the plotters, but traditional leaders from the north were quick to condemn the alleged conspiracy.

Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, whom Babangida ousted, was of the Hausa-Fulani group.

Meanwhile, Nigeria signaled the end of a 19-month chill in relations with Britain by appointing an ambassador to London.

Lagos radio said Babangida had appointed George Dove-Edwin, a professional diplomat, to the London post. On Feb. 11, Britain appointed Martin Ewans, 57, as its new ambassador to Nigeria.

Nigeria is Britain’s largest trading partner in black Africa. Relations soured when Britain refused to extradite former Transportation Minister Umaru Dikko, wanted by the Lagos military government on corruption charges.

Dikko was abducted outside his London home in July 1984 and later was found at Stansted Airport northeast of London, drugged and stuffed into a crate ready for shipment to Lagos.

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