Opening Speech by Mr. Omo-eboh

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Opening Speech delivered by Mr. Justice J Omo-Eboh at 9 am on Day 1 of the Mid-Western State of Nigeria

Rebel Activities Tribunal of Inquiry, November 17, 1967

[FORWARDED BY DR. NOWA OMOIGUI]

nowa_o@yahoo.com

______________________

 

Chairman:  Mr. Justice J. Omo-Eboh

 

Members:         Dr. BI Aror,

                        Mr. GA Aghahowa,

                        Mr. SJ Okudu,

                        Major C. Ndiomu

 

Secretary:         Mr. H. U. Okitikpi

 

Chiefs, Gentlemen and all those who are present hereat, Lt. Col. Samuel Ogbemudia, who has happily this day been appointed as the Military Governor of the Mid-West State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by Edict No. 19 of 1967, dated 26/10/67 at Benin-City in the year of our Lord 1967, constituted this Tribunal of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into Rebel activities in the Mid-Western State. 

The members of the Tribunal are: my humble self; on my right, sits Dr. Aror, BSc, MSc, PhD, Lecturer in Electrical Engineering in the University of Lagos and on my left, sits Mr. Garrick Aghahowa, F.C.W.A, A.C.A., Chief Accountant of the University of Lagos. On my right immediately after Dr. Aror, is Major Charles Ndiomu, BA (London) of the Nigerian Army and on my left, immediately after Mr. Aghahowa, sits Mr. SJ Okudu B.A. (London), Deputy Registrar of the University of Ibadan.  The terms of reference under the Edict are as follows:

 

(I must necessarily encounter some difficulty in reading here as electric light has failed, as it were, by unfortunate combination of circumstances beyond our control).

 

[Mr. Okudu reads from Gazette No. 58]

 

"EXTRAORDINARY (MID-WESTERN NIGERIA) GAZETTE No. 58

 

There shall be for Mid-Western State of Nigeria a Tribunal of Inquiry with the following terms of reference:

  1. to ascertain and determine -

    (i) the extent of damage done to property, both public and private, by the rebels in the State, and

    (ii) the amount of money stolen or taken by the rebels from various sources in the State;

  2. to inquire into the role played by public officers and other civilians with respect to rebel activities before and during the stay of the rebel troops in the State;

  3. to find out in what respect (if any) the part played by any public officer and any member of the public falls short of, or departs from, the standard of conduct or propriety which can reasonably be expected to be shown, or adhered to, by persons in their positions; and

  4. within three months of the commencement of this Edict or within such longer period as the Military Administrator may by writing under his hand prescribe, to submit its report and recommendations to the Military Administrator."

Justice Omo-Eboh continues:

 

Now that you have been told by what authority we of this tribunal are here present, I shall proceed as Chairman of this Tribunal to address you thus:

 

"My dear Compatriots,

 

We of the Mid-Western State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria woke up on the fateful morning of the 9th day of August 1967 and found, to our utter amazement and dismay, that our State had been militarily occupied by rebel soldiers from the East Central State without any form of resistance whatsoever.  It was indeed a rape on the Mid-West by the rebel soldiers and in this bestial act, they were encouraged, actively aided and supported, by some Mid-Westerners within the Mid-West State and a few who were outside it.

 

The occupation of the Mid-West by the rebel military adventurers lasted for six weeks and since it cannot be easily forgotten that it was six weeks of travail, tears, and turmoil, then, it is not difficult to remember how seemingly long and unending this period appeared to be to all men, women, and children of Mid-West origin at home and abroad who were adversely affected by the said occupation.  Thanks to God, Giver of Life and Ruler of Destiny that the military occupation of the Mid-West did not last longer than six weeks - for at noon on the glorious day of 20th September 1967, the gallant troops of the Federal Military Government of the Republic of Nigeria entered Benin-City - the capital of the Mid-Western State, and thus marked the true liberation of the State from the yoke of the military vandals of Ojukwu and his collaborators. 

 

Only God and history can adequately reward the undaunted courage, military acumen and superior organizational ability of Major General Yakubu Gowon, Colonel Murtala Mohammed, Lt. Col. Samuel Ogbemudia and all officers and men, who, by their toil, blood and labour, made the liberation of the Mid-West possible within minimum time and with such little loss of men and destruction of property.

 

The era of the occupation of the State by the military adventurers of the East Central State was marked by looting, shooting, killing, wounding, and kidnapping; the treasuries of theState were emptied, corporations' coffers were plundered, and properties of commercial or industrial  concerns were seized or destroyed, while valuable properties of government and quasigovernment institutions were removed to the East Central State; furthermore, public properties including bridges, culverts, roads etc. were deliberately damaged and/or destroyed. In all these, the rebels were known to have been actively assisted by public officers and/or civilians of Mid-Western State origin.

 

Now that you are free once more and can walk about with your head erect as a true Mid-Westerner, you are called upon to come before this tribunal to state, from your own knowledge, those public officers or civilians who encouraged, actively aided, supported or in any way assisted the rebels in any of their activities in the Mid-Western State before and during those dark days of the rebel occupation of the Mid-West.

 

I have to remind you that it is your civic duty, as a true Mid-Westerner, to bring all facts known to you about any public officer's or civilian's actions, words, or conduct in respect of rebel activities in the Mid-West to the knowledge of this Tribunal and that your doing so, promptly and withour fear or favour, is your greatest insurance of the future security of the Mid-West State. You are called upon to remember the fact that the future of your children, family and property is also involved in this exercise and I am to remind you of the wise adage - "ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY."

 

The Tribunal demands from all those who come before it to testify that they should speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and, in turn, assures all those who speak with candour of protection inside and outside the Tribunal.  It should be added that this is a golden opportunity for persons from certain sections of the Mid-West, who have reasons to have fled from their posts or their usual places of residence, to come forward and clear their names or explain their actions or conduct by testifying before the Tribunal.  If such people contact the Secretary to the Tribunal, c/o Military Governor's Office, Benin City, arrangements can be made, where necessary, for their safe conduct to and from the Tribunal. It may well be that this is the golden opportunity which such persons have to make a clean breast of it all, and demonstrate their faith in "One Nigeria," and assure all and sundry of their fidelity to the Mid-West, as at present constituted, as an integral State within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Surely, those who do so will naturally attract, if the necessity arises, both sympathy and understanding from all quarters genuinely concerned with the present cirsis.  I have to state that this is a fact finding Inquiry and that no one is being prosecuted for any offence before this Tribunal.

 

Our task is to record the nefarious activities of the rebels in this State and to find out those who were their COLLABORATORS from among persons of Mid-Western State origin and your own duty, in short, is to assist us, in all ways that you can, in this task.

 

The Members and our Staff rely upon your good sense of judgement and trust that you will give us your cooperation throughout.

 

We promise that we will do our duties without fear or favour.

 

Thank you very much."

__________________________

Source:  Daily Proceedings of the Tribunal of Inquiry into Rebel Activities.

Mid-Western Nigeria, November 17, 1967, Day 1

 

Quoted in a forthcoming Book on the Biafran Invasion of the Mid-West, by Dr. Nowa Omoigui

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