Anthony Enahoro, one of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists who was granted pardon by Presidential Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, was indicted by the federal assets investigation panel in 1976, TheCable can report.
There has been a stream of speculation as to why Buhari granted him pardon, with most people assuming it was for his treason conviction by the Tafawa Balewa government in 1963 over which he had already been pardoned in 1966.
TheCable had also reported the confusion, listing three possibilities for the pardon: Enahoro’s three convictions for sedition during colonial times which earned him the sobriquet “Jailbird Enahoro”; his conviction for treason along with Obafemi Awolowo in 1963; and his trial for treason by the Sani Abacha in 1995.
However, fresh facts unearthed by TheCable confirm that Enahoro, who served as federal commissioner (minister) for information and labour from 1967 to 1974 and then special duties from 1974 to 1975 — both under in the Yakubu Gowon government — had his assets confiscated in 1975 after his indictment.
Murtala Muhammed overthrew Gowon in a military coup on July 29, 1975.
On September 16, 1975, Muhammed set up the federal assets investigation panel to probe all former governors, the administrator of east central state and some federal commissioners who served in Gowon’s regime.
On February 3, 1976, the panel released its report and 10 out of 12 former governor were found guilty of gross abuse of office.
The confiscated assets stood at about N10 million (equivalent of about $8 million in 1976).
Eric Teniola, one of Nigeria’s respected journalists reported the proceedings of the panel at the time, confirmed TheCable’s findings.
“The panel exonerated only two former military governors — Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson of Lagos state, and Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi of the Western state.
The remaining 10 were indicted and the panel asked that all their assets be seized by the military government,” he told TheCable.
“The panel also indicted former federal commissioners, including Chief Anthony Enahoro and Chief Edwin Clark, and ordered that their properties be seized. Many cinema houses in Lagos traced to Clark were seized as he was alleged to have appropriated government property to himself.
“They started fighting the indictment on the grounds that the panel was not properly constituted and that they did not get fair hearing. I want to believe the pardon for Enahoro means his family can now claim those properties back.”
Historical records searched by TheCable corroborate Teniola’s recollections.
In an article, The Rollercoaster Life Of Murtala Muhammed, Max Siollun, the historian and author, wrote:
“Apart from Shehu Shagari and Ali Monguno, all of Gowon’s civilian ministers were also found guilty of corrupt enrichment and were stripped of illegally obtained assets. Among those found to have corruptly enriched himself was the veteran nationalist politician Anthony Enahoro.”
It is still unclear if the pardon for Enahoro was based on the 1976 indictment but it is very likely.
The federal government is yet to give official reasons for the pardon, which was extended to four other Nigerians.