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Why I framed Obasanjo, Yar'Adua-Fadile

By Rotimi Ajayi and Chioma Ugwunebo, Vanguard Daily, 3 November 2000

Abuja—The man who implicated President Olusegun Obasanjo, the late Maj.-Gen. Shehu Yar'Adua and others in the 1995 phantom coup, Col. Bello Fadile (rtd.) took his turn before the Oputa Panel on Human Rights Violation yesterday, and said he framed them to save his own life.

President Obasanjo himself appeared before the panel yesterday and said National Security Adviser to the late Gen. Sani Abacha, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo had a lot to do with his arrest and conviction over the alleged coup plot.

Both Fadile and Obasanjo spoke on a day Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige announced that the Federal Government had earmarked N500 million in next year$(B!G(Bs budget as compensation for victims of human rights abuses.

Fadile said the only opportunity for him to stay alive then, was to rope in Obasanjo and others, as demanded by his torturers.

He had under cross-examination by counsel to Olugbenga Obasanjo, Chief Afe Babalola, told the commission that he implicated those tried for the alleged coup plot, adding that there was no coup, but attempt by Abacha to get rid of those he considered as threat to his regime.

In his own testimony, President Obasanjo said he had forgiven Col. Fadile for implicating him.

He later embraced Col. Fadile at the instance of the panel chairman, Justice Chukwudife Oputa.

He also tendered a letter of apology written to him by Fadile asking for forgiveness for the role he played in his (Obasanjo's) arrest, detention and subsequent conviction.

He said, when I got his letter of apology I felt touched even if he had killed my son I would have forgiven him.

He stated that there was no doubt that his imprisonment was the verdict of a kangaroo trial.

If anyone still doubts my innocence, Fadile is here in flesh and blood to confirm it.

Left to me, I feel I have been vindicated by God and by Nigerians and for me to seek any other vindication is to be ungrateful.

The President, who was accompanied to the commission by his counsel, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), appeared in connection with the petition number 497, sent to the panel by his son, Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo.

In the petition, Dr. Obasanjo stated that his father was denied his freedom unjustly for over three years.

He added that during the period of his father$(B!G(Bs imprisonment, the family was deprived the love and care of fatherhood.

He demanded adequate compensation for the conviction of his father.

Responding under cross-examination by his counsel, President Obasanjo said that he appeared before the panel because of his belief in the important role of the commission in Nigeria.

Answering questions from the defence counsel of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, Mr. S.A. Achiba, the President stated that the former NSA had much to do with his imprisonment.

The exchange between the President and the lawyer went thus:

Lawyer: Do you know Ismaila Gwarzo?

President: I don$(B!G(Bt know him. In fact, if I see him now I would not recognise him.

Lawyer: Was Gwarzo among those who came to arrest you on your farm in Ota?

President: People that high don$(B!G(Bt go out for arrests.

Lawyer: You cannot say with certainly that your arrest and detention had anything to do with Gwarzo?

President: I know enough and I know he had a lot to do with it.

Lawyer: Mr. President, you are involved in the violations of the rights of other Nigerians. Are you aware that Gwarzo is under detention for the 18 months you have been in power?

At this point, the counsel to the President objected to the question on the ground that it was irrelevant to the issue before the panel.

Chief Babalola (SAN) pointed out that the question was to achieve a cheap political point.

He added that the case before the panel was that of Gbenga$(B!G(Bs petition and not the detention of Gwarzo.

The chairman of the panel upheld the objection.

Seven exhibits were submitted at yesterday$(B!G(Bs hearing during which Col. Fadile (rtd.) shed tears when he embraced the President.

lFG earmarks N500m for human rights abuse victims

However, Justice Minister and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Ige told an international conference on the National action plan for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria that government had unmarked N500 million in next year$(B!G(Bs budget as compensation to victims of human rights violation in the country.

But he said beneficiaries would be cleared by the courts.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, stated that any public officer who trampled on the rights of any junior worker would be relieved of his appointment by the Federal Government.

Chief Ige who observed that previous military governments in the country systematically violated human rights of many Nigerians explained that the country was now ready to sign all treaties and protocols of the United Nations Declarations on Human Rights, stressing that for this to be possible and meaningful there should be reforms in the judiciary.