Primary Source

Policy Statement of the Federal Military Government Issued by Nigerian Embassies Abroad, 1966


In 1966, Nigeria was only a few years removed from colonial status. Nigeria as a unified political and economic entity had only been established in 1914 with the merger of the very different regions of northern and southern Nigeria. Faced with a Nigerian colonial population comprising almost 200 different ethnic groups loosely divided into Muslim, Christian, and traditional religions, the British resorted to a policy of “indirect rule” in the 1930s. After Britain’s costly victory in World War II, the British moved relatively quickly to establish a less costly, independent Nigeria in 1960 based on British institutions, the English language, and local control of many issues that might allow for both local ethnic autonomy and a centralized government. Conflict arose between the variety of ethnicities despite British attempts to firmly establish English democracy, resulting in country-wide violence. In January of 1966, the Nigerian military attempted a coup d'état with the intent to suspend many pieces of the constitution. The following year saw the beginning of a civil war from July 1967 to January 1970 between Nigeria and the dissident Republic of Biafra, ending ultimately with Nigerian victory. There have been arguments that Nigeria’s actions against Biafra was genocidal, though no perpetrators were held accountable.

This source is part of the Analyzing Official Documents methods module. See the attached modified document as part of the practice analysis within that module. 


The Military Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wishes to state that it has taken over the interim administration of the Federal Republic of Nigeria following the invitation of The Council of Ministers of the last government for the Army to do so.

For some time now there have been escalating political disturbances in parts of Nigeria with increasing loss of faith between political leaders themselves. This crisis of confidence reached a head during the elections in Western Region in October last year. There were charges by the opposition parties of rigging of the elections and general abuse of power by the regional government, in the conduct of the elections. Riots, arson, murder and looting became widespread in Western Nigeria since October. The situation deteriorated and certain army officers attempted to seize power.

In the early hours of the morning of 15th January 1966 these officers kidnapped the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance and took them to an unknown destination. The revolt was widespread throughout the country and two regional Premiers and some high-ranking army officers were killed. The vast majority of The Nigerian Army under the command of The General Officer Commanding The Nigerian Army remained completely loyal to the Federal Government and immediately took steps to control the situation.

The Council of Ministers of the Federal Government met and appraised the problems confronting the government. They appreciated the immediate need to control the serious situation which threatened the Federation. They also saw quite clearly a possible deterioration of the situation in the light of developments on Saturday 15th January 1966. On Sunday 16th January, The Council of Ministers unanimously decided to hand over voluntarily the administration of the country with immediate effect, to the Nigerian Army. This was formally done the same day by the Acting President of the Federation.

Suspension of the certain parts of the constitution
a. Suspension of the provisions of the constitution of the federation which provide for the establishment of the office of President, the establishment of parliament, and of the office of Prime Minister;
b. Suspension of the provisions of the constitution of the regions which provide for the establishment of the offices of Regional Governors, Regional Premiers, Executive Councils and Regional Legislatures.

Machinery of Administration of Federal Military Government
a. The Functions of the Federal Military Government shall be exercised by a Supreme Military Council and an Executive Council, details of which will be announced later.
b. The Permanent Secretaries in charge of Federal Ministries shall continue in their office carrying out the normal functions of government and they shall be directly responsible to the Federal Military Government when constituted.

Appointment of Military Governors
a. Outside Lagos, there shall be Military Governments under a Military Governor, assisted by an adviser who is the last person to hold the office of Regional Governor. The normal functions of government shall be carried on by the Permanent Secretaries and they shall be directly responsible to the Military Governments there.
b. The following Military Governors have been appointed: North--Major Hassan Katsina, P.S.C., East-Lt. Col. C. Odumegwu-Ojuku, J.S.S.C., West--Lt. Col. F. A. Fajuyi, M.C., B.E.M., Mid-West--Lt. Col. D. A. Ejoor, P.S.C. They will be directly responsible to the Federal Military Government and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Judiciary, The Civil Service and The Police
a. The Chief Justice and all other holders of Judicial appointments within the federation shall continue in their appointments, and the Judiciary shall continue to function under their existing statutes.
b. All holders of appointment in the civil service of the federation and of the regions shall continue to hold their appointments and to carry out their duties in the normal way, and similarly the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigeria Special Constabulary shall continue to exercise their functions in the normal ways.
c. All Local Government Police Forces and Native Authority Police Forces shall be placed under the overall command of the Inspector-General. The Federal Military Government has also made the following announce-ments:

Internal Affairs Policy
a. That it is determined to suppress the current disorders in the Western Region and in the Tiv area of the Northern Region,
b. That it will declare martial law in any area of the Federation in which disturbances continue,
c. That it is its intention to maintain law and order in the Federation until such time as a new constitution for the Federation, prepared in accordance with the wishes of the people is brought into being.

External Affairs Policy
a. That it is desirous of maintaining existing diplomatic relations with other states.
b. That it is its intention to honour all treaty obligations entered into by the previous government.
c. That it is its intention to honour all financial agreements and obligations entered into by the previous government.
d. That it welcomes all honest and genuine businessmen who are prepared to invest in the country in mutually beneficial projects, and
e. That it re-affirms the assurances given by the previous government that there are no plans to nationalise industries, and that there should be no doubt in the minds of entrepreneurs that Nigeria will provide adequate compen-sation in the event of any industry being nationalised in the future.

The Federal Military Government wishes to state that the voluntary transfer of powers from the last government to the Federal Military Governments has been popularly accepted by the people of Nigeria. All political parties in the country have similarly acclaimed this transfer. Natural rulers, leaders of religion, trade unions, student and other voluntary organisations have sent messages of congratulations to the Military Government.

The Federal Military Government wishes to assure all friendly states that its foreign policy will continue to be based on non-alignment, respect for the sovereignty of all states and friendly relations with all countries.


A. H. M. Kirk-Greene. Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria A Documentary Sourcebook 1966-1969, Volume I: January 1966-July 1967. London: Oxford University Press, 1971, pp143-145.

Kirk-Greene reports that he received this document “By courtesy of a Nigerian Foreign Affairs official. The document is dated 23 January 1966.”

How to Cite This Source

"Policy Statement of the Federal Military Government Issued by Nigerian Embassies Abroad, 1966," in World History Commons, [accessed June 1, 2023]