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Nigerian President Calls On Former Military Rulers To Testify - 2001-08-01

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has called on three of the country's former military rulers to testify before a commission looking into human rights abuses allegedly committed before Nigeria's return to civilian rule.

President Olusegun Obasanjo made his appeal in comments carried this week on Nigerian television.

The special commission headed by a former supreme court judge is examining human rights violations allegedly committed by successive military governments that ruled Nigeria before the election of Mr. Obasanjo in 1999.

The panel, modeled after South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is charged with investigating reports of violations, but has no power to hand down sentences.

Among the subjects being investigated are the killings of opposition leaders during military governments that ruled Nigeria over three decades starting in 1966.

The panel has called on three former rulers, Generals Abdulsami Abubakar, Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida to testify. All three have refused the summons.

In his remarks, President Obasanjo said all those who have been called to testify have a duty to do so. He said no one in Nigeria is above the law. Mr. Obasanjo reminded the generals that he himself testified before the panel when he was called to answer questions about matters that took place during the time he served as Nigeria's military ruler in the late 1970's.

Last month, an arrest warrant was issued for army chief General Alexander Ogomudia, the highest-ranking member of the Nigerian military to be called to testify.

The Human Rights Investigations Commission was established by Mr. Obasanjo seven months after he took office in 1999. Hearings, carried on live radio and television, began last year and have revealed details of corruption and other scandals that Nigerians had previously heard of only by way of rumor.

Testimony has on some occasions linked government officials who had previously not been named in connection with the scandals.

Men who confessed to carrying out political killings for the government of late military ruler Sani Abacha described in detail how they would track down victims, follow them, and spray their cars with bullets.