Thirty-seven dismissed military officers have dragged the Nigerian Army to the Senate for unjustly arrest, torture and conviction for the 1995 phantom coup plot under the administration of late former maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha.
Abacha in March 1995 had arrested former President Olusegun Obasanjo with some other military officers in connection with what has come to be known as a phatom coup plot.
But Abacha’s successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, in 1998 gave unconditional pardon to General Obasanjo and late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua among others.
However, 37 military officers, led by Colonel Gabriel Adetunji Ajayi, who were also arrested and convicted in connection with the phantom coup plot, are now seeking the intervention of the Senate for promotion and compensation.
Presenting the petition on the floor on behalf of affected officers, Senator Tayo Alasoadura said the officers are seeking for promotion and compensation, especially following the gazetted unconditional pardon by Abubakar on February 4, 1999 vide Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Government Gazette No 33 Volume 23 of May 16, 1999.
The Senate has already referred the matter to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges for further action.
Colonel Ajayi said the level of brutality and inhumanity he experienced during the period can better be imagined than experienced.
He maintained that he can never forget the trauma he passed through till the end of his life.
In his own words: “Wounded souls do not vanish easily. I was punished for something I knew nothing about. I did not plan any coup, nobody told me he was planning one. It was all figment of the imagination of the schemers.”
Ajayi said he was condemned to death by firing squad by the Brigadier General Patrick Aziza Special Military Tribunal for an offence he knew nothing about.
He said: “My death sentence was commuted to 25 years due to pressure mounted by the international community and the vibrancy of the Nigerian press.”
He lamented the maltreatment of many innocent souls, who have been unjustly executed by various military regimes.
He said: “I was sent to Minna Prison under very strict and somehow inhuman terms which violated the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners to which Nigeria is a signatory. I spent four harrowing years in near solitary confinement battling with insects and reptiles that inhabited the dilapidated prison.”
Colonel Ajayi, who has just authored a book on his experience during the period, titled: “End of the Road: The Travail of An Infantry Officer,” said he wrote the book to show the entire world the magnitude of trauma he went through, maintaining categorically that despite the fact that the incident happened over 15 years ago, he finds it very difficult to outlive the deep wound inflicted upon his soul.
He said: “Besides, I still carry the scars of the injuries sustained physically on my body. For me, life can never be the same again. I daily carry the pain, horror, nightmare and inhumanity I experienced in that prison.”
The Colonel said his psyche has been badly affected.
He said his mind runs a marathon race among anger, desperation and disgust.