P.M. News (Lagos)

3 January 2000

Nigeria: Gen. Akilu Raises Private Army

Lagos — Former Director of Military Intelligence in the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida government, Brig. Gen. Haliru Akilu (retd) has been identified as one of the major sponsors of the Arewa People's Congress, the northern version of militant groups rising in the country.

The controversial ex-intelligence chief, as well as another ex-DMI operative, Alhaji Sagir Mohammed, are said to be the arrowheads of the group that claims to be defending the interests of the north by checkmating the activities of ethnic militias, especially the Oodua Peoples Congress,(OPC) in the South West.

A report in the current edition of The News Magazine revealed that, already, Brig. Gen. Akilu could have been coordinating the process of raising a private army for the newly-launched APC.

Akilu, whose name has been an object of speculation over the October 1986 gruesome murder of the Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine, Mr. Dele Giwa is said to have invested in the APC project to distract the attention of President Obasanjo whose government may bring him to trial over the murder of the media chief other "personal interests".

The magazine says investigations conducted by it in Kano and Kaduna have revealed that Akilu and Sagir had been contacting prominent leaders in the north to back the APC as it seeks to defend 'northern interests'.

Even though the size and strength of such a force was not given, the APC leadership has reiterated its preparedness to embark on a campaign by violence, 'If need be', to prosecute its 'jihad'.

There were speculations that some retired soldiers could be recruited into the force, even though Sagir vehemently denied such suggestion.

The APC might not find it difficult sponsoring the militant group due to a huge budget profile it has reportedly raised from wealthy citizens of the north.

The body said it wanted to protect the interest of northerners "who are being prosecuted and persecuted". Confronted with allegations of trying to raise a militant force, Alhaji Sagir Mohammed, APC's co- sponsor with Akilu told TheNEWS "We don't believe in violence. But sometimes, no matter how peaceful you may want to be, you may find out that you have been pushed to the limit and you are forced to respond with violence".

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