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Men You Should Know: Halilu Akilu


General Halliru Akilu is a Nigerian general who was Director of National Intelligence and Director of Military Intelligence at various times in the 1990s. Akilu was born and educated in Kano State.

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Military career

Akilu was commissioned in 1967 after he had attended the Nigeria Defence Academy. He later attended Junior Staff College, Warminster (1973), Command and Staff College in Pakistan (1979), Kings College London (1983), and the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru (1989). In 1969, he fought during the Nigerian Civil War as a company commander and was wounded. He later became, commander of the 146 Infantry Battalion that suppressed the Maitatsine religious riots.

Military intelligence

Akilu later joined the Directorate of Military Intelligence. As a lieutenant colonel, he took part from the conceptual stages of the 1983 military coup d’état which ousted the Second Nigerian Republic and installed to power General Muhammadu Buhari.

He replaced General Aliyu Gusau as Director of Military Intelligence and played a key role in the 1985 military coup d’état, which overthrew Muhammadu Buhari. Following the coup, General Babangida (then Chief of Army Staff) exploited his closeness to Akilu and other graduates of the NDA’s Regular Course 3.

Akilu was strategically placed in the DMI as a counterweight to Ambassador Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi, General Muhammadu Buhari’s ally in the national security structure. Akilu’s role in the Directorate of Military Intelligence served as counter-intelligence to the National Security Organisation.

Akilu played a major coordinating role as (Director of Military Intelligence) in the 1985 military coup d’état that ousted the military head of state General Muhammadu Buhari and brought to power General Ibrahim Babangida. Akilu and Babangida have a close relationship in that Akilu’s wife and Maryam Babangida are cousins.

Military regime

Akilu was a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council from 1989 to 1993. Akilu worked alongside General Aliyu Gusau in reorganising the security and intelligence apparatuses, in order to consolidate power for the military regime. National Security Organisation was broken into three organisations: State Security Services (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA); and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) where he served twice from August 1985 to July 1986 and January 1990 to September 1990.

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Akilu was believed to have played a controversial role in the assassination of Dele Giwa. He was accused of having spoken with Dele Giwa’s wife and received his home address.

Giwa later received a parcel from two men with the inscription – “From the office of the C-in-C” and was marked “secret and confidential” – opening the parcel, an explosion occurred and Dele Giwa was subsequently killed, investigations were conducted into the assassination but the murder remains unsolved.

The case was taken to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Colonel Halilu Akilu vs. Chief Gani Fawehinmi.

In 1993, the results though not officially declared by the National Electoral Commission – showed the duo of Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) defeated Bashir Tofa and Slyvester Ugoh of the National Republican Convention (NRC) by over 2.3 million votes in the June 12 presidential election.

The elections were later annulled by the military head of state General Babangida. The annulment led to widespread protests and political unrest in Abiola’s stronghold of the South West. Abiola was said to have called Akilu, pleading with him to reverse the annulment.

Babangida later admitted that the elections were annulled due to a national security threat, which he didn’t specify. In August 1993, Babangida resigned establishing the Interim National Government led by Ernest Shonekan.

Later career

After the 1993 military coup d’etat, Akilu was retired by General Sani Abacha.



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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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