By Eric Teniola
ON Tuesday April 28 1998, Gen. Malu’s Tribunal sentenced Gen. Diya and others to death. Those sentenced to death were Lt-Gen. Oladipo Diya, former Vice Chairman, Provisional Ruling Council, and Chief of General Staff; Major General Abdulkareem Adisa,50, former Minister of Works and Housing; Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju,51, former Minister of Communications; Major Seun Fadipe, Chief Security Officer to Diya; Col. Olu Akinyode, former Military Assistant to General Olanrewaju and a civil engineer, Bola Adebanjo, an associate of Diya.
Four of the accused persons were convicted of “information gathering” and implication in the alleged coup plot, and sentenced to life imprisonment. They were Col. Edwin Jando, Mr. Isaiah Adebowale, Mr. Niran Malaolu (Editor of Diet Newspaper) and Mrs. Shola Soile. Major Fadipe, who was sentenced to death, had already pleaded guilty on the opening day of the trial.” I am not here to waste anybody’s time”, he was quoted as saying.
Two of the accused persons were convicted of theft and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment: Lt-Col. I.E. Yankasai and Major Biliaminu Mohammed. Col. Yakubu Bako was convicted for illegal importation of fire arms and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Three were convicted of theft and handling of stolen goods.
They were sentenced to various prison terms: Ojeniyi Adeola(two years), Michael Maidamino(five years) and Galadima Tanko(two years). The Tribunal acquitted 14 persons on unspecified charges: Major Yusuf Isiaku, Navy Captain B.A. Shoetan, Warrant Officer Coker Oladosu, Staff Sergeant Moses Eni, Corporal I. Kontagora, Corporal Eddy Egbunu, Bawa Machido, Omatimehin Abimbola, Halima Bawa (female who was never shackled), Eliyasu Mohammed, Professor Femi Odekunle, Chief Yomi Tokoya, Mr. Musa Adede (a businessman) and Ibrahim Moussa Orgar.
Released uncharged on 20th April 1998: Colonel Daniel Akintonde,former Military Governor of Ogun State and Colonel Emmanuel Shoda.
In sentencing the officers, General Malu said there was overwhelming evidence proving Diya had amassed a small army of loyal troops by the time his plot to overthrow the regime was discovered. Malu, dismissed Diya’s claims of innocence.
“The findings of the Tribunal were that he presided over and actively participated in several meetings in which the coup was discussed.” Malu said, “The coup would have been carried out on December 20, the day that most of the accused persons were picked up”. He said soldiers had already begun moving into positions to overthrow the government. Malu also said Diya had no defence for having taken part in meetings that plotted the overthrow of Abacha.”
Any officer who was given any information or who was invited to a meeting should report to the authorities of the plot when they were approached by those he claimed initiated it,” Malu said. On the directive of General Sani Abacha, the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who was also the Secretary of the Provisional Ruling Council and Head of Service, Alhaji Gidado Idris, GCON, summoned a meeting of the Provisional Ruling Council for Monday June 8, 1998 to deliberate on General Malu’s report either to confirm or reject the report.
The 22 members of the Provisional Ruling Council included General Sanni Abacha, Lt. General Jeremiah Useni, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, Inspector General of Police, Major General John Inienger, Major General Abduallahi Seriki Mukthar, Major General Mufu Balogun, Rear Admiral Taiwo Odedina, Major General Victor Malu, Rear Admiral Rufus Eyitayo, Commodore Victor Ombu, Lt. Gen. B. Haladu, Air Commodore Kamis Uwenwailiri, Major General Felix Mujaperuo, Major General Ishaya Bamaiyi, Major General Peter Shaa, Rear Admiral Mike Akhigbe, Commodore Anthony Oguguo, Major General Bashir Magashi and the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Abdusalami Abubakar.
The confirmation by the Provisional Council would have led to the execution of Gen. Diya and others on the night of June 8 or the following day June 9 in a purely Military fashion.
In the early hours of that Monday, June 8, 1998, Gen. Sani Abacha answered the final call.
The Provisional Ruling Council met no doubt on that day, not to deliberate on Gen. Malu’s report but to select Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar as the new Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces.
O July 9, 1998, the Provisional Ruling Council headed by Gen. Abdsalam Abubakar commuted death sentences passed on Generals Diya,Olanrewaju and Adisa over the alleged coup plot of December 1997 to jail terms. On March 12, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan pardoned some of the officers including Gen.Oladipo Diya and late Gen. Adisa.
Gen. Malu was buried on October 28 at Tse Adoor compound Tongov, Mbajima, Katsina Ala in Benue state.