Why Cases of Convicted Soldiers Should Be Reviewed -By Femi Falana

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Femi Falana

Femi Falana

 

What the former helmsmen have not disclosed is that through their criminal negligence, thousands of ill-equipped soldiers were massacred by the insurgents while those who refused to commit suicide were either tried, convicted and sentenced to death by courts-martial set up in questionable circumstances.

Recently, the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Barde (rtd) disclosed that the armed forces lack the equipment with which to fight the insurgents in the North-East region. Other senior military officers who who were in charge of the armed forces during the era have confirmed that the the troops deployed by them were neither equipped nor motivated sufficiently to prosecute the war on terror. The implication of the belated revelations of the erstwhile military commanders is that the huge funds earmarked for the purchase of military hardware for waging the war against the terrorists were diverted and cornered by some criminal elements. On his own part, the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd.) has said some arms and ammunition, ordered during the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, are yet to arrive in the country. He said some elements, whose identities he did not disclose, were frustrating the nation’s efforts to get the critically needed equipment to fight the terror sect, Boko Haram.

What the former helmsmen have not disclosed is that through their criminal negligence, thousands of ill-equipped soldiers were massacred by the insurgents while those who refused to commit suicide were either tried, convicted and sentenced to death by courts-martial set up in questionable circumstances. Thus, from September-December 2014, 70 soldiers were sentenced to death while several others were jailed for mutiny arising from the legitimate demand for arms and ammunition to confront the terrorists. To avoid further embarrassment which the death penalty attracted for the armed forces, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, General Kenneth Minimah (rtd.) engaged in the summary dismissal of not less than 1000 soldiers in contravention of the provisions of the Armed Forces Act.

…the Chief of Army Staff, General Umar Yussuf Batarai should confirm the cases of the convicted soldiers without any further delay.

As if the official cruelty meted out to the soldiers was not enough, General Minimah, as the confirmed authority, refused to review the findings and sentences passed on the convicted soldiers which ought to have been done within 60 days of the verdict of the courts-martial. By refusing to promulgate and confirm the said findings, the ex-Chief of Army Staff has denied the convicted soldiers of the constitutional right of appeal. Instead of transferring them to prison as required by law, the army authorities have kept the convicted soldiers incommunicado in dehumanising conditions in an underground cell in Apapa, Lagos. Even their family members and lawyers have been denied access to them without any justification.

Despite the recent announcement that the cases of the convicted and dismissed soldiers and the ongoing trials before courts-martial would be reviewed, the Special Court-Martial trying Brigadier-General Enitan Ransome-Kuti at Abuja sat last week. Even though the charge of cowardly behaviour has been struck out by the military court based on the defendant’s no-case submission the case has been further adjourned to September 2, 2015 for continuation of trial. Since the other courts-martial have been dissolved while the suspects have been directed to appear for a review of their charges filed against them it is discriminatory, inequitable and illegal to continue with the trial of Brigadier-General Ransome-Kuti. The case should be reviewed in the interest of justice. In the same vein, the Chief of Army Staff, General Umar Yussuf Batarai should confirm the cases of the convicted soldiers without any further delay.

Femi Falana (SAN) writes from Lagos.

 

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