Soldiers' Sentence Is Miscarriage Of Justice - Falana

Soldiers' Sentence Is Miscarriage Of Justice - Falana

Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), expressed his strong discontent with the court’s decision to sentence to death 54 soldiers.

According to Vanguard, Falana described their punishment as gross miscarriage of justice which cannot stand. Sending the soldiers to confront heavily armed Boko Haram terrorists without providing them with adequate weapons was like asking them to go and commit suicide, said Falana.

The condemned soldiers issued their statement through their counsel, Falana. The military men confessed that they had refused to take part in the operation because the army failed to provide them with necessary support equipment.

In his opinion, because of that the division lost three officers, 23 soldiers and had 82 others injured after their units were attacked by Boko Haram fighters during an operation in Bulabulin, Borno State, on July 9.

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Without considering the evidence in court, General Court-Martial sitting in Abuja tried 59 soldiers for conspiracy to mutiny and sentenced 54 of them to death. Only five were discharged and acquitted.

In Falana’s opinion, “the acquittal was designed to give the false impression that the dubious verdict was fair and just."

“The soldiers were in the Special Forces 111 Battalion which has 174 instead of 750 soldiers. The soldiers in the Battalion were neither equipped nor motivated. They are young men whose ages range between 21 and 25. Most of them joined the army in 2012.

“With little or no training whatsoever they were deployed to fight the dreaded Boko Haram sect. The funds allocated for payment of the salaries and allowances of the soldiers and for purchase of arms and ammunition are usually diverted and cornered by corrupt military officers."

In his statement Falana also strongly blamed military chiefs.

“Instead of bringing such unpatriotic officers to book, the military authorities have engaged in the diversionary tactics of wasting the lives of innocent soldiers by sentencing them to death without any legal justification.”

READ ALSO: Trial Of 59 Soldiers Who Refused To Fight Boko Haram Begins

“While sympathizing with the bereaved soldiers, the army authorities assured them that adequate weapons would be provided to match the sophisticated weapons of the Boko Haram sect.

“But without the provision of the said weapons the soldiers were ordered on August 4, 2014 to recapture Delwa, Balubulin and Damboa in Borno State from the Boko Haram terrorists.

“The soldiers demanded for weapons so as not to lose more officers and men in the circumstance. A few soldiers who embarked on the suicidal mission together with the Commanding Officer were ambushed by the Boko Haram troops.

“When some weapons were made available on August 8, 2014, the soldiers moved to the battlefront, dislodged the satanic Boko Haram sect and liberated their captured colleagues and officers. They were commended for their bravery and sacrifice. But for some inexplicable reasons, the army authorities ordered that the soldiers be charged with mutiny for allegedly exposing the armed forces to embarrassment by asking for weapons.”

At the end of the statement, Falana faulted the conviction of the soldiers, saying that  the court-martial refused to consider the evidence.

“Apart from the fact that the Prosecution did not lead any scintilla of evidence to prove the 2-count charge of conspiracy and mutiny against any of the convicts the Court-martial did not consider the defence of the soldiers in any material particular.”

Earlier this year General Court-Martial tried 18 soldiers for mutiny and found 12 of them guilty and sentenced them to death.  The ruling triggered controversial reactions. Shortly after, even Nigeria’s Anglican Church Primate Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh asked the authorities to spare the lives of these 12 soldiers.

Femi Falana also turned to the military officials. He advised that the death sentence should be commuted to imprisonment in the interest of Justice.

However, ex-army chiefs “voted” for the execution saying that “the worst thing a soldier can do is to mutiny”.


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