Nigeria clams up on coup arrests

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The Independent Online
Nigeria's military said yesterday that it was not yet ready to reveal the whereabouts of 12 people arrested for trying to topple army ruler General Sani Abacha, including his deputy, Lieutenant General Oladipo Diya. "There is no news," defence headquarters spokesman Colonel Godwin Ugbo said in Lagos. He added that more details of the coup would be released in due course.

Nigerian cities were quiet a day after state television broadcast a message saying the high-ranking soldiers, and one civilian, had been picked up. The main opposition coalition said it was alarmed by the arrests and said if the government had adequate evidence, the alleged plotters should be tried by an ordinary court, not a military tribunal.

The arrests come at a critical time for Nigeria, which faces elections next year as part of Gen Abacha's plan to restore civilian rule to Africa's most populous nation.

Most of those arrested were Yorubas from the south-west, which has opposed the military since 1993 elections were scrapped as Yoruba tycoon Moshood Abiola was poised to win. Gen Abacha is from the north.

- Reuters, Lagos