Thursday, 18 December 2014

Mutiny: Nigerian Army Sentences 54 Soldiers to Death, Five Discharged and Acquitted

In another solemn end to a General Court Martial, the Nigeria military has sentenced 54 soldiers of the Nigerian Army to death, having found them guilty of mutiny and refusal to fight Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State, while five others were discharged and acquitted.

The soldiers were among the 97 military personnel including 15 officers whose trials were announced on October 15, for various offences.

THISDAY findings revealed that the final judgment, which lasted for two hours was made after 8 pm on Wednesday, although details were sketchy since journalists were barred from covering proceedings.

However, a military source confirmed that 54 of the soldiers were sentenced to death, which is the statutory punishment for their offences, while five others were discharged and acquitted.

“I cannot get you all the details now since the court martial was a closed one, but I can confirm 54 soldiers have been sentence to death, while five were acquitted for their offences,” he said.

The court martial presided over by Brig-Gen Musa Yusuf at the army headquarters, garrisson, Abuja was initially open to the public until journalists were stopped from covering the proceedings in order not to jeopardise the operational details of the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the North-east.

Yusuf had slapped Corporal Andrew Ogwulekwu and 59 others with two count charges including: criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny, and count two, refusal to carry out an order to face Boko Haram insurgents.
According to the charge sheet, the soldiers on trial had refused the orders of their commanding officer to advance on an operation to recapture Delwa, Bulabulin and Damboa in Borno State from Boko Haram terrorist.

The condemned soldiers are to die by firing squad.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has described the conviction of the soldiers as the height of injustice, adding that their conviction was an act of genocide that should not be allowed to stand.

“This is the height of injustice because there was no evidence linking the boys with mutiny. Apart from the fact that there were no weapons for the soldiers to fight, they fought gallantly because the prosecution said after the boys protested against the fact that they did not have weapons to fight, they went back to fight and they fought gallantly.

“Don’t forget that even President Goodluck Jonathan acknowledged that there were no weapons for the soldiers to fight when he asked the National Assembly to approve $1 billion to buy weapons for the military to tackle the insurgency. So on what basis were the soldiers convicted?

“This is an act of genocide that we should not allow to stand. We shall report Nigeria to the International Criminal Court (ICC),” he said.

ThisDay Newspaper