1960-1969 | Arms exports | Backing dictatorships | Nigeria | Uncategorized



General Yakabu Gowon (Aart Rietveld – CC BY-SA 4.0 – crop – Wikimedia) and Harold Wilson (Eric Koch – Nationaal Archief – Wikimedia.

[ 15 August 1967 ]

Today in 1967, the Birmingham Post broke the news that hangar number two at Birmingham Airport was being used to store a consignment of 186 cases of rifles which was due to be airlifted to the Nigerian junta. The federal government’s military leader, General Yakubu Gowon, had requested Britain to increase its normal supply of military hardware so that his generals could pursue their crushing campaign of genocide against the persecuted Igbo population of Biafra. The shipment had only been exposed, after extra police had to be called in to protect the consignment, after Tripoli, from where the consignment would then be flown onward to Lagos,  delayed permission for its transshipment.1

Despite the embarrassing revelation by the newspaper, Harold Wilson’s Labour government insisted it was remaining neutral in the conflict, and that it was merely supplying ‘small arms to be used mainly for the defence of the friendly and recognised government of Nigeria.’  In actual fact, the shipment was just a small part of an escalating supply of weapons and equipment, which by mid August, less than six weeks after the start of the war, already included anti-aircraft guns and fast patrol boats.2


  1. ‘Big guard on Elmdon guns cargo,’ The Birmingham Post, 15 August 1967 p. 13.
  2. Mark Curtis, Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses, Vintage, London 2004 pp. 172-173.

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