No regrets for the Asaba massacre of Igbo -Haruna

By Sufuyan Ojeifo & Lemmy Ughegbe, Vanguard

ABUJA — GENERAL Officer Commanding (GOC) Two Division of the Army during the civil war, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Haruna said yesterday that he had no regret for the Asaba massacre in which over 500 Igbo men were killed by his troops.

Testifying for the second day running for the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) at the Oputa panel sitting, Gen. Haruna also revealed that Nigeria’s late Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa had a foreknowledge of the 1966 coup that claimed his life.

He said the late Prime Minister even turned down an invitation from the British government to pass the night of January 14, 1966 at the British High Commission in Lagos to escape from the coup plotters.

Gen. Haruna who was under cross-examination by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s counsel, Chief Anthony Mogbo (SAN) said whatever action he or his troops took during the war was motivated by a sense of duty to protect the unity of the country.

"As the commanding officer and leader of the troops that massacred 500 men in Asaba, I have no apology for those massacred in Asaba, Owerri and Ameke-Item. I acted as a soldier maintaining the peace and unity of Nigeria," he declared.

"If Gen. Yakubu Gowon apologised, he did it in his own capacity. As for me I have no apology," explaining, however, that "it was as barbaric as the 1966 coup; it was as barbaric as the pogrom, if there was also any other atrocity, the Kano extrajudicial killing was as barbaric as that."

Gen. Haruna also recommended that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida be charged with failure to investigate the 1966 coup during their different terms as head of state.

"Charge Buhari, Gowon, Babangida for not investigating the 1966 coup on the grounds of dereliction of duty," he said.

On the 1966 coup, Gen. Haruna informed the panel that the late Alhaji Tafawa-Balewa, among other prominent Nigerians, had a foreknowledge of the coup.

He said the late Prime Minister actually turned down an invitation from the British government to pass the night at its High Commission in Lagos as he believed the mutineers would kill him.

Called by Mogbo (SAN) to explain the rationale behind ACF tagging the 1966 coup an "Igbo coup in spite of Alhaji Balewa, M.D. Yusuf, then a police officer, Col. Maimalari and many others of Northern extraction having prior knowledge of the coup, the star witness declined response.

He, however, disclosed that the North had planned a jihad on the day of the coup, insisting that the statement "Igbo, Igbo, Igbo, you are no longer part of Nigeria," credited to the former Prime Minister (Balewa) was a misinterpretation of the actual intent.

On the Gideon Akaluka incident of 1994, Gen. Haruna said that it was wrong to say that the Kano State Government never punished the killers of Mr. Gideon Akaluka, saying 20 unnamed persons were victims of extra-judicial killings which were supposed to be a deterrent.

But he said the killings were not ordered by the state government.

"My lord, I do not know who ordered the extra-judicial killing, nor where they were killed. All I know is that the Kano State Government, killed 20 people linked to the barbaric act," he said.

Gen. Haruna said, "I don’t know what you mean, 20 people were victims of the extra-judicial killing, but I don‘t know who ordered it, I have not said it is Kano State that ordered it."

Also testifying, the Plateau State branch of NBA Chairman and son of late Lt.-Col. Yakubu Pam, Barrister Yusuf Pam demanded a public apology from Col. Ben Gbulie for alleging that the house which his father built was a gift from the then Northern regional government.

"We were taught to forgive, but it is only normal for us to demand that such a statement that is patently false should be retracted by Gbulie. He should also apologise to us for this further damage to the memory of a patriotic officer who served the country well with his life."



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