Legal Nigeria

Death Row Soldiers Sue Army For Contempt

Soldiers in the Nigerian Army who were recently sentenced to death by a military court martial have initiated contempt proceedings against the Chief of Army Staff over non-release of the record of proceedings that convicted and sentenced them to death.
This is just as the army, in a statement by its acting director of public relations, Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman, confirmed reports that the it had commenced an administrative procedure to review some recent disciplinary cases but dismissed insinuations that the review amounted to a recall of dismissed and deserter soldiers.
“The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to a correspondence making the rounds in some media regarding an administrative procedure to review some recent disciplinary cases in the Nigerian Army.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it should be noted that the Nigerian Army is reviewing all recent disciplinary cases due to the wave of litigations and petitions by some aggrieved personnel. The public should not misconstrue the recent directive to mean total recall of dismissed and deserter soldiers,” the terse statement read.
Counsel to the soldiers, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), told LEADERSHIP Sunday that since the soldiers were sentenced to death by a military court martial, the military had not been cooperating in efforts to get relevant documents to challenge the judgment that sentenced them to death.
He said contempt proceeding had been initiated at the court to make sure the military complies with the order of the court that asked them to make available the record of proceedings at the military court martial.
Obla said, “We’ve filed a motion for contempt since they refused to comply with court order. We applied for the release of the record of proceedings at the special court that sentenced them to death but they have not complied. We will give them the benefit of the doubt that they will comply now that there is a new leadership in place in the military.”
Obla however declined comments on recent statements by the immediate past chief of defence staff (CDS), Alex Badeh that he led an Ill-equipped military, saying it would be prejudicial to comment on the issue since the matter is still before the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, a Borno elder, Dr Bulama Mali Gubio, has said that the former CDS deserves to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for deliberately leading an ill-equipped military that allowed Boko Haram terrorists to massacre thousands of lives in North-east Nigeria.
Gubio said he was not in any way impressed with the belated confession of the former CDS.
The retired technocrat, who was also a former head of the Borno State civil service, said it was very disappointing that Badeh, who is a son of North-east Nigeria would deliberately collude with the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan to sanction the killings of his own kin by not voicing out the fact that the Nigerian military under his command had no requisite equipment to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency.
“My personal view and comment on the pronouncement of the former Chief of Defence Staff is that we are very much surprised that AVM Alex Badeh who is from the North-east would act in the manner he did during his time as Nigeria’s defence chief.
“If he knew that the military under his command was ill-equipped, he should have since voiced out his concerns. But he kept quiet and refused to talk! We all knew how our state governor, Kashim Shettima, was nearly removed as the then presidency and even the military were threatening total state of emergency on Borno and so on, all because he came out to state the truth. It was God that saved Borno at that time,” Gubio stated.
He further stated that now that Badeh had accepted that he deliberately led a military without ammunition in the war against Boko Haram, it means he colluded with the government of former president Jonathan to watch the people of the North-east massacred by Boko Haram.
“It was really sad that when our governor was crying out that his people were being killed mercilessly by Boko Haram terrorists because Boko Haram had better equipment than the Nigerian soldiers, the military under Alex Badeh’s command as well as the government of former president Jonathan were busy denying it.
“There is no two ways about it; he (Alex Badeh) deliberately presided over an ill-equipped military. So, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to take up this matter as voluntarily presented by Alex Badeh and join it with the indictments made in the Amnesty International reports on Boko Haram, to ensure that he and others that were so indicted face trial at the ICC. They have to explain to the world why the people of Borno particularly, and the North-east in general were allowed to be so massacred,” he submitted
In a related development, prominent lawyers in the country have condemned Badeh over his statement that Nigerian military is ill-equipped.
Badeh made the statement last week during his passing out parade from the military.
The lawyers, while reacting in separate telephone interviews, averred that Badeh should have resigned when he knew that the military he headed was ill-equipped.
Commenting on the import of the former defence chief’s comment on the case of soldiers on death row, who had protested lack of adequate arms to confront Boko Haram insurgents and were court martialled and sentenced by the military, a senior advocate of Nigeria, Mallam Yusuf Ali, said there was no justification for the actions of the condemned soldiers who absconded from the war front, adding that Badeh should have resigned instead of making such statement during his passing out parade.
“There can be no justification for cowardice. You have to take the risk involved since you have sworn to defend the country. I agree that they should be granted some reprieve but I disagree with what Badeh said. What he said is not an excuse for cowardice. Why did he retain the job when he knew that they were ill-equipped? Hunger is not an excuse for stealing,” he emphasised.
Another senior lawyer, Mr. Ismaila Alasa, speaking in similar vein, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the issue should be looked at from the legal and moral angle.
According to him, “it depends on how you look at it. They have sworn to an oath of allegiance to defend the country no matte the situation they find themselves in.
“On the moral angle, the law does not impose on you to do the impossible. If you did not give them arms to fight, you are invariably asking them to go and die. The soldiers that absconded and the military authorities should share the blame because I don’t believe they should be sent to the war front with bare hands.”