Law News
Mutiny: Three soldiers appeal against death penalty

Three of the soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny on September 15, 2014 have appealed against the judgment of the General Court Martial.

Their 11-ground appeal was filed before the Court of Appeal in Abuja on October 9.

The appellants are Igomu Emmanuel, Stephen Clement and Andrew Ngbede, with service numbers 09NA/62/1648/LCPL, 03NA/53/1816/CPL and 09NA/64/4214/PTE, respectively.

The three appellants were part of the 12 soldiers whom a General Court Martial, led by Brig.-Gen. C.C Okonkwo, found guilty of criminal conspiracy, mutiny and an attempt to murder. They were sentenced to death by firing squad on September 15, 2014.

The 12 soldiers were arraigned before the General Court Martial for allegedly attacking the former General Officer Commanding the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, Armed Mohammed.

However, the three appellant had through their lawyer, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), filed an appeal against the judgment.

They described their conviction for conspiracy to commit mutiny as a perverse decision while also alleging that the court martial failed to consider the defence of alibi, which was never investigated.

Specifically, ground one of the appeal states, “The General Court Martial erred in law and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it disregarded the objection of the defence counsel raised before and at the arraignment of the appellant on the defective nature of the charge brought against the appellant.”

On the particulars of the error as described in their first ground of appeal, the soldiers noted that they were charged and convicted largely on the basis of Section 114 of the Armed Forces Act, which they argued, none of its subsections disclosed any offence known to law against them.

They averred that count one of the charges preferred against them was ambiguous, uncertain and defective as they were charged under Section 114 of the Armed Forces Act and punished under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law.

In their second ground of appeal, the soldiers maintained that the General Court Martial erred in law and “thus came to a perverse decision when it based its decision solely on an equivocal, indirect, negative, uncorroborated and suspicious circumstantial evidence in convicting them for attempt to commit murder.”

They noted that the GOC of 7 Division, Maj. Gen. Ahmadu Mohammed, whom they were accused of attempting to murder by firing shots in his official vehicle, was never led by the prosecution to give evidence to show that it was their shot that hit the rear of the car in issue.

They added that the third count was equally uncertain and defective.

They maintained that the third count was preferred against them under Section 95 of the Armed Forces Act and provided a punishment of life imprisonment if convicted.

But they argued that they were punished and sentenced to death under Section 106 of the Armed Forces Act.

The soldiers maintained that the entire charges upon which they were tried and convicted was “vague, so disjointed, imprecise and so incoherent” that they did not understand the charge neither were their individual names stated on the charges.

They therefore argued that the charges were in breach of the provisions of section 36 (6) of the Nigerian Constitution which entitled them to be informed of the details and nature of the offence for which they were charged.

They insisted that the “incoherent and disjointed nature of the charge” upon which they were tried and convicted infringed on their fundamental rights.

They urged the appellate court set aside the decision of the General Court Martial and to discharge and acquit them. They also wanted the court to order the payment of dues and outstanding peculiar benefits or otherwise accruing to them.

No date, however, has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal.

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