News and Information

Charges over Nigerian coup plot
October 21, 2004
At least three senior military officers have been charged with plotting to assassinate President Olusegun Obasanjo by shooting down his helicopter.

Best known is Major Hamza al-Mustapha, the former security chief under late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.

Despite being in custody over a murder case, the prosecution allege he held prison meetings to plot the coup.

He appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to treason. A businessman has also been charged.


The charges are the first official confirmation of a coup plot after months of speculation in Nigeria about an incident described by the government in April as a "serious breach of national security".

Sani Abacha
Mustapha was head of Abacha's personal security

All troops were recalled to barracks and all leave cancelled when the reports first emerged.

Court documents accuse Major Mustapha of financing efforts to buy "a Stinger surface-to-air missile to be used in shooting down the president's helicopter with the president on board."

Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 - following years of military dictatorship.

Major Mustapha has been in prison since then - accused of the attempted murder of a newspaper proprietor who criticised the Abacha regime.


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