Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu's Press Conference On Aburi Meeting

Dim Ojukwu33

You are already aware that we have just ended the meeting of the Supreme Military Council in Ghana. It has come to my notice that the public is anxious to have more details of decisions taken.

The meeting opened with a joint declaration by all of us, the military leaders, renouncing the use of force as a means of settling the present crisis in Nigeria and holding ourselves in honor bound by that declaration. That declaration also reaffirmed our faith in discussions and negotiations as the peaceful means of resolving the Nigerian crisis. having regard to the great fear and suspicion on all parts about the use of force, we thought that this declaration should precede any other business; and I am sure that all Nigerians will welcome it as a source of great relief.

The next important matter discussed, and upon which a lot of other things hinged, was the organization of the Nigerian army. Let me say here that our discussions right through went on in a calm atmosphere, understanding, and realism. We in the East have always felt that realism and understanding were lacking in the past in the approach to our problems, and it was very encouraging that our meetings on the two days showed the sincere determination by all to find realistic solutions to our problems.

it was agreed that the army will be henceforth be governed by the Supreme Military Council, the chairman of which will be known as Commander-in-Chief and Head of the Federal Military Government. There is to be a military headquarters on which the regions will be equally represented and which will be headed by a Chief of Staff. There shall be an area command in each region under the charge of an area command in each region under the charge of an area commander -- the regions corresponding to the existing ones. There will be a Lagos garrison, which will include Ikeja. For the duration of the military government, military governors will have control over their area commands in matters of internal security. All matters of policy, shall be dealt with by the Supreme Military Council. Any decision affecting the whole country must be determined by the Supreme Military Council, and when a meeting is not possible, such a matter must be referred to the military governors for comments and concurrence.

Subject to the above arrangements, we felt that the existing governmental institutions, namely, the Supreme Military Council and the Federal Executive Council, as well as regional executive councils, are workable and should be retained.

It was agreed that the Supreme Military Council must collectively approve appointments to the following offices: a) diplomatic consular posts; b) senior posts in the armed forces and the police; c) superscale federal corporation posts.

This particular decision was made as a means of removing friction, it being our unfortunate experience that friction and misunderstanding had in the past bedeviled these appointments. What it means is that no one person will have the right and power to make these appointments alone in the future.

Politically, it was unanimously agreed that it was in the interest of the safety of this nation that the regions should move slightly further apart than before. As a prelude to this, it was decided that all decrees and parts of decrees promulgated since the military regime, and which detracted from the previous powers of the regional governments, should be repealed by the twenty-first of this month. Once this is done and the agreements are implemented, the aim of allowing the regions to operate more independently and of ensuring fairness to all will be achieved.

The question of displaced persons was exhaustively discussed. As regards civil servants and employees of government corporations who had to flee their places of work as a result of the current situation, it was decided that such people will be paid their full salaries up to the end of March this year, unless they have found alternative employment.

On the question of other displaced persons, it was decided to set up a committee to look into the problems of rehabilitation and recovery of property. I took that opportunity to repeat my assurance that those non easterners who had to be ordered to leave the region in the interest of their own safety would be welcomed back as soon as conditions become more normal.

I have hurried to make this statement to you because of the misgivings which I understand are prevalent in the region as a result of this meeting. I recall that just before my departure, when the public did not even know that our meeting was so close, students and other groups of individuals issued resolutions advising me against attending any meeting with my counterparts. You will now be convinced that this meeting was more than necessary and worthwhile. Our duty is to reduce or remove tension, in order to leave ourselves free to tackle the most urgent and constructive tasks of economic and social development, which cannot be possible in a state of tension and fear. I have no doubt that all of us who participated in the last discussions are determined to implement the agreements reached. Once this is done, we shall have gone a long way to relieving tension and banishing fear among us. It is our plan to meet again soon, this time in Nigeria, to consider other matters arising from our last discussions and those which were not touched.

I want here to place on record my personal indebtedness to the government and people of Ghana for making a plane available to convey me to and from the meetings on the two days, and for making other arrangements to make this meeting possible. Provided our aims are achieved, we in this country will have cause to remain eternally grateful to Ghana for their constructive initiative.

For our part in this country, we must keep calm and avoid actions or words which might create difficulties for our progress in the solution of our problems.

God will certainly rescue this nation from collapse and perdition.
January 6, 1967 - Government House, Enugu, Eastern Region.

 

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