A SUMMARY OF THE ABURI AGREEMENT
The Supreme Military Council that subsequently met at Aburi, Ghana, on 4th and 5th January, 1967 agreed on the following:
- To resolve the question of leadership within the army, restore the chain of command which had become badly disrupted, and examine the crisis of confidence amongst the officers and soldiers which had rendered it impossible for them intermingle;
- To evolve ways and means of carrying on the responsibility of administering the country until a new constitution had been determined; and
- To tackle realistically the problems of displaced persons. These considerations were reflected in the agenda which was agreed upon by members of the Supreme Military Council.
0n the first day of the meeting, the Military Governor of the East put forward a resolution, which the meeting endorsed, calling on the military leaders to renounce the use of force as a means of settling the Nigerian crisis. It was this resolution which was embodied in a communique issued by the Council at the end of the first day of the meeting.
After deliberating anxiously and seriously on the reorganization, administration and control of the Army, the meeting reached agreements on the following lines:
- The Army to be governed by the Supreme Military Council under a chairman to be known as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Federal Military Government.
- Establishment of a Military Headquarters comprising equal representation from the Regions and headed by a Chief of Staff.
- Creation of Area Commands corresponding to existing Regions and under the charge of Area Commanders.
- Matters of policy, including appointments and promotions to top executive posts in the Armed Forces and the Police, to be dealt with by the Supreme Military Council.
- During the period of the Military Government, Military Governors will have control over Area Commands for internal security.
- Creation of a Lagos Garrison including Ikeja Barracks.
It was further agreed by the Supreme Military Council that a Military Committee comprising representatives of the Regions should meet within two weeks from the date of receiving instructions to prepare statistics which would show:
- Present strength of Nigerian Army;
- Deficiency in each sector of each unit;
- The size appropriate for the country and each Area Command;
- Additional requirement for the country and each Area Command.
Pending the completion of the work of the Committee, it was agreed by the Council that further recruitment of soldiers throughout the country should cease.
On the implementation of the agreement reached by representatives of the Military Leaders on 9th August, 1966, the Council reaffirmed the principle that Army personnel of Northern origin should return to the North from the West. In order to meet the security needs of the West it was agreed that a crash programme of recruitment and training was necessary but that the details should be examined after the Military Committee had finished its work.
It was in the course of discussing the reorganization of the Army that the crucial issue of the assumption by Lt. Col. Gowon of the offices of Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government arose. The Governor of the East, in explaining why it was impossible for him to recognize Lt. Col. Gowon as Supreme Commander, pointed out that the fate of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi, the legitimate Supreme Commander, was yet unknown and so no one could succeed him; that in the absence of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi whoever was the next senior officer in rank should manage the affairs of the country; and that the East was never party to any decision to appoint
Lt. Col. Gowon Supreme Commander. Subsequently, Lt. Col. Gowon volunteered information regarding the murder of the Major General and his host, Lt. Col. AdekunleFajuyi, on 29th July, 1966. The Supreme Military Council decided to accord the late military leaders the full honours due to them.
The Supreme Military Council recognized that with the demise of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi no other Military Leader could command the support of the entire Nigerian Army and that a new arrangement was necessary for an effective administration of the whole country. The Council also took cognizance of the fact that extreme centralization had been the bane of the Military Regime in the past and that it was essential to re-define the powers of the Federal Military Government vis-a-vis the Regional Military Governments in order to ensure public confidence and co-operation.
When the Supreme Military Council resumed its deliberations at Aburi on 5th January, after members had spent the night at their various posts with their advisers, it proceeded to discuss the powers of the Federal Military Government vis-a-vis the Regional Governments. The upshot was that the Council re-affirmed its previous decisions on the reorganization of the Army and also took the following additional decisions: