Monday, 13 October 2014

Court Martial: Convicted Soldiers Appeal Death Sentence

Three soldiers out of the 12 sentenced to death by the military General Court Martial on September 15 have dragged the Nigerian Army before the Court of Appeal in Abuja, seeking to set aside the death sentences passed on them.

THISDAY had exclusively reported that the condemned soldiers would appeal their conviction.

The soldiers, Igomu Emmanuel, Stephen Clement and Andrew Ngbede with service numbers 09NA/62/1648/ LCPL, 03NA/53/1816/CPL and 09NA/64/4214/PTE respectively, filed their appeal before the appellate court last Thursday through their lawyer, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN).

In the appeal, which contained 11 grounds, they argued that the General Court Martial erred in law and came to a perverse decision by convicting them in respect of the offence of conspiracy and failed to consider the defence of alibi which they raised simultaneously but which was never investigated by the court martial.

Specifically, ground one of the appeal states, “The General Court Martial erred in law and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it disregarded the objection of the defence counsel raised before and at the arraignment of the appellant on the defective nature of the charge brought against the appellants.”

On the particulars of the error in ground one of their appeal, the soldiers said they were charged and convicted at large under section 114 of the Armed Forces Act as the charge did not tie the offence they allegedly committed to any of the subsections of section 114 of the Armed Forces Act and that the section did not define the offence of criminal conspiracy as an offence known to law.

They averred that count 1 under which they were charged and convicted was ambiguous, uncertain and defective as they were charged under section 114 of the Armed Forces Act and punished under section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law.

They also contended that count three under was equally uncertain and defective as they were charged under section 95 of the Armed Forces Act which provides a punishment of life imprisonment if convicted but were punished and sentenced to death under section 106 of the Armed Forces Act.

The soldiers maintained that the entire charge upon which they were tried and convicted was vague, disjointed, imprecise and so incoherent that they did not understand the charge, neither were their individual names stated on the charge and thus, argued that it was in breach of the provisions of section 36 (6) of the 1999 Constitution which entitles them to be informed of the details and nature of the offence for which they were charged.

They insisted that this incoherent and disjointed nature of the charge upon which they were tried and convicted infringed on their fundamental rights.

On the second ground of the appeal, the soldiers averred that the General Court Martial erred in law and thus came to a perverse decision when it based its decision solely on an equivocal, indirect, negative, uncorroborated and suspicious circumstantial evidence in convicting them for attempt to commit murder.

They claimed that the GOC of 7 Division, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed (N/7915), whom they allegedly attempted to murder by firing shots at his official vehicle which hit the right rear door where he sat, was never led by the prosecution to give evidence on the alleged attempt on his life at their trial and that no ballistic evidence was led at their trial to show that it was their shot that hit the rear of the car in issue.

Furthermore, the appellants contended that none of the witnesses at their trial clearly and unequivocally identified any of them as the person who shot at the vehicle of Mohammed and that the General Court Martial merely relied on circumstantial evidence which did not lead conclusively and indisputably that any of their shots was one, if any, that hit the rear right door of his vehicle.
They urged the court to allow their appeal, set aside the decision of the General Court Martial and to discharge and acquit them.

They also wanted the court to order the payment of dues and outstanding peculiarly benefits or otherwise accruing to them.

No date however, has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal.
Sometime in May, some soldiers, angered by the death of their colleagues in a Boko Haram ambush had allegedly opened fire on the vehicle of the GOC, 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Mohammed in Maiduguri.

However, stakeholders and international organizations have raised their voices against the death sentences slammed on the twelve soldiers convicted for the act.
The European Union, EU, condemned the death sentence in a statement it released last Thursday as part of its activities marking the occasion of the World Day against Death Penalty.

The regional body condemned all death sentences, especially after mass trial as was the case with the Nigerian soldiers.

The soldiers sentenced to death are: Jasper Braidolor, David Musa, Friday Onuh, Yusuf Shuaibu, Igonmu Emmanuel, Andrew Ugbede, Nurudeen Ahmed, Ifeanyi Alukagba, Alao Samuel, Amadi Chukwuma, Alan Linus, and Stephen Clement while Jeremiah Echocho was sentenced to 28 days with hard labour.

ThisDay Newspaper