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Date: Thu, 8 Jan 1998 18:15:36 -0500
Sender: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
Comments: RFC822 error: <W> Incorrect or incomplete address field found and ignored.
From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@IX.NETCOM.COM>
Subject: *Zimbabwe/Nigeria News

Minister Alleges Foreign Involvement In Reported Coup

By Paul Ejime, PANA, 6 January 1998

LAGOS, Nigeria (PANA) - Nigeria's foreign minister, Tom Ikimi, Tuesday gave more insight into the alleged December coup plot, hinting on possible collaboration of a foreign country in the reported conspiracy. Preliminary investigations indicated possible foreign involvement, including the collusion of their diplomatic mission in Nigeria, he told African diplomats and heads of missions at a special briefing in Abuja, the nation's capital.

The actual details of that involvement is being investigated, the minister said, adding that the alleged coup was hatched and meticulously pursued over a period of three months by the suspects.

The alleged conspirators, he said, had planned to assassinate the Gen. Sani Abacha, the Nigerian head of state, along with other senior military officers and prominent civilians both within and outside the government.

They also intended to disrupt the transition programme (scheduled to end October 1998) and put in place a new and extended programme, Ikimi added.

Among the 12 Nigerians arrested in connection with the reported coup plot are Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya, Abacha's deputy, as well as two former ministers of the administration. The other suspects are four colonels, one lieutenant colonel, three majors and Diya's political adviser, the only civilian. Ikimi said the conspirators had planned to carry out the alleged putsch on Dec. 21, the day the authorities announced the uncovering of the plot.

A special board, headed by Maj. Gen. Chris Garuba, and made up of military, police and state security personnel, has been constituted and given one month to complete investigation into the alleged plot. Ikimi said after the probe, indicted suspects would be tried under the current treason and other offences act of 1986, which provides for a maximum death sentence for convicts.

He said the suspects have ample opportunity to defend themselves and obtain legal representation from a corps of military lawyers.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with some 104 million people, has seen about a dozen successful or failed coup attempts in its 37 years of army rule-dominated nationhood.

Coup suspects are normally tried by special military tribunals and government officials have hinted that the latest case would not be an exception.

Since the reported coup plot, the military administration has been holding consultations with a cross-section of Nigerians, during which leaders of thought, including traditional rulers, have been shown video and audio clips of preliminary investigations into the alleged plot.

While there have pro-government rallies across the country condemning the reported plot, the skeptical opposition groups sound less than convinced, dismissing the event as diversionary.