By News Express on 17/09/2014
The 12 soldiers sentenced to death by firing squad yesterday morning by the military tribunal are likely to head to the Federal Court of Appeal, in the event that the Army Council ratifies their sentence.
Their sentence was the climax of a military court martial involving the arraignment of 18 soldiers on a six-count charge for their involvement in a mutiny on May 14, when some aggrieved troops opened fire at a car carrying the Commanding Officer, 7 Division in Maiduguri, Borno State, Major-General Ahmadu Mohammed.
The death sentences handed down by the tribunal have been condemned by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), and a cross section of Nigerians, who believe the military should commute the death sentences to a less severe one.
The military tribunal that was presided over by Brigadier-General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo outlined charges one to six under which the soldiers where tried, including insubordinate behaviour, false accusation, mutiny, absence without leave (AWOL) and conduct to the prejudice of service discipline.
After the ruling, which took several hours to reach, 13 of the accused were found guilty under different counts, while five were acquitted and discharged.
Following the conviction, the Nigerian Army General Court Martial sentenced 12 of the 18 soldiers to death by firing squad, while one was sentenced to 28 days imprisonment with hard labour.
According to the sentence delivered by Okonkwo, the first group of 11 soldiers, “Corporal Jasper Braidolor and 10 others” having been found guilty of Counts 1, 2 and 3 were sentenced to death by firing squad.
In the same vein, two other soldiers in the second group of seven, namely, Lance Corporal Stephen Clement were found culpable in Counts 3 and 4, which attracted death sentences, while Private Ichocho Jeremiah was found guilty on Counts 5 and 6, which earned him 28 days imprisonment with hard labour.
After the ruling, Okonkwo said: “These sentences are subject to confirmation,” meaning that they are subject to the approval of the Army Council.
It was learnt yesterday that the convicted soldiers would head to the Court of Appeal to either clear their names of the offences or have their sentences commuted to a less severe one.
Speaking on the issue, a top military source said: “They will definitely appeal the sentencing. They have the right to appeal and the president of the court martial has ruled and he made that clear in his statement.
“One of the likely outcomes is that if their cases and pleas are considered, the death sentences could be commuted to life imprisonment or if they are lucky, they may be granted presidential pardon in future.”
The convicted soldiers with their ranks and service numbers are: 96NA/ 42/6235 Corporal Jasper Braidolor; 96NA/ 43/ 10277 Corporal David Musa; 05NA/ 57/ 3451 Lance Corporal Friday Onun; 09NA/ 64/ 4905 Lance Corporal Yusuf Shuaibu; 09NA/ 62/ 1648 Lance Corporal Igomu Emmanuel; 09NA/ 64/ 4214 Private Andrew Ngbede; 10NA/ 65/ 8344 Private Nurudeen Ahmed; 10NA/ 65/ 7084 Private Ifeanyi Alukhagbe; 13NA/ 69/ 2898 Private Alao Samuel; and 13NA/ 69/ 2907 Private Amadi Chukwudi.
Others are 13NA/ 69/ 2898 Private Allan Linus; 93NA/ 36/ 1542 Corporal David Luhbut; 97NA/ 45/ 7423 Corporal Muhammed Sani; 03NA/ 53/ 816 Lance Corporal Stephen Clement; 09NA/ 62/ 1648 Inama Samuel; 09NA/ 64/ 5858 Iseh Ubong; 10NA/ 65/ 6912 Ichocho Jeremiah; and 10NA/ 65/ 7343 Sabastine Gwaba.
According to the court statement, the soldiers were accused of rebelling in Maimalari Cantonment, blaming their General Office Commanding (GOC) and other officers for the deaths of four of their colleagues.
The soldiers had claimed that they were ambushed while on a special operation in Kalabalge Local Government Area near Chibok in Borno State, where over 200 girls were abducted from the Government Secondary School on April 14 this year.
They alleged that after the operation, during which some military equipment were recovered from Boko Haram insurgents, the soldiers, who arrived the location at night, were asked to return to Maiduguri despite their plea to be allowed to return the next morning, as the night trip was considered too risky.
Unfortunately, halfway through their journey, they were said to have run into a Boko Haram ambush, resulting in the death of more than 10 while others were injured.
The incident angered the soldiers, prompting them to rebel against their superiors while the GOC was shot at. The incident also compelled the Nigerian Army to replace the GOC.
Alarmed by the development, the military authorities arrested the soldiers and instituted a military board of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding their conduct.
As a follow up, the army in an internal memo signed by the Commander, Army Headquarter Garrison, Mogadishu Cantonment, Brigadeir-General B.T. Ndiomu, ordered the constitution of a General Court Martial, to be presided over by Okonkwo.
The military court was made up of seven members, two waiting members, a judge advocate and two prosecuting officers. It was said to have been constituted on June 26 and started sitting on July 6.
The membership of the panel also included a liaison officer, a contact officer, two officers authorised to sign any amendment, a convening officer and eight other soldiers who formed the court secretariat.
Apart from Okonkwo, other members included the Judge Advocate, Colonel T.S. Nurseman; Colonel T.O. Olowomeye; Colonel I.G. Lassa; Colonel J.K. Feboke; Lieutenant-Colonel C.R. Nnebeife; Major I. Yusuf; and Major T.A. Yakubu, as members, while Major A.E. Martins completed the nine-man panel as an awaiting member.
The lead prosecutor was Lieutenant-Colonel A.A. Audu, who was supported by Lieutenant-Colonel Ukpe Ukpe as Prosecutor 1.
When reading their offences, Okonkwo said the soldiers, in line with Rule 65 and 67 of Rules and Procedures of the Nigerian Armed Forces Law 1972, were slapped with a six-count charge of committing mutiny, criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny, attempted murder, disobedience to particular orders, insubordinate behaviour contrary to and punishable under the law, and false accusation.
He also charged 11 of the 18 soldiers with criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny, among others.
He said Corporal Jasper Braidolor and 10 others inspired other military personnel of the 101 Battalion of 7 Div to commit mutiny.
He said: “That you between 13 and 14 May 2014 at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri fired sporadically with the intent to incite other personnel of 101 Battalion against the authority of 7 Division.”
Okonkwo listed the punishment for the offences under the Armed Forces Act (AFA) to include death, imprisonment, dismissal with ignominy from the armed forces, and a fine of a sum not exceeding the equivalent of three months pay, among others.
Pleading on their behalf, one of the leading defence counsel to the accused soldiers, Francis Paul, prayed the military court to lessen their sentences.
Paul asked the court to temper justice with mercy, listing some of the challenges being faced by his clients, adding that their loss through death sentence or lengthy incarceration could bring untold hardship their relatives and a huge loss to the nation.
He said: “My prayer is that their sentences be lessened. My Lord, I pray this court to temper justice with mercy. Private Friday Onuh, who joined the military in 2005, is the only surviving male of his family with aged parents and a five-month-old child.
“Also Corporal Jasper joined the army since 1996 and is a dedicated veteran of three wars who has served this country with zeal and passion.
“My Lord, these convicted persons having served their country well, with most of them being first time offenders, should be viewed with mercy.”
Responding, Okonkwo promised to consider their cases and pleas in the sentence. However, this was not to be, as he handed down the maximum punishment to the convicts.
Meanwhile, the GOC (Major-General Mohammed) in the whole saga has since been retired.
Military sources revealed that he was quietly retired following the outcome of a secret military court martial held to decide his fate.
•Adapted from a THISDAY report. Photo shows some of the convicted soldiers during the court martial.
Source News Express
Posted 17/09/2014 10:38:33 AM
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