Law News
Mutiny: Trial of four Lt. Cols, 93 other soldiers begins
Some soldiers facing trial at the newly inaugurated General Court Martial, at the Abacha Barracks, in Abuja... on Thursday

Some soldiers facing trial at the newly inaugurated General Court Martial, at the Abacha Barracks, in Abuja… on Thursday

The authorities of the Nigerian Army have inaugurated a General Court Martial to try 97 officers and men for alleged offences in the ongoing counter-terrorism operation in the North-East.

Among the officers are four Lieutenant Colonels, a major, four captains, five Lieutenants and one 2nd Lieutenant.

The   Lieutenant Colonels are S.S. Tilawan,   D.B. Dazang, I.C. Ogunmanya, and S.U. Abubakar.

The Major is   I.I. Sakaba while the captains are Z. Alhaji,   M . Hamadikko,   M. B. Abdullahi, and   S. Y. Musa.

The Lieutenants are T. Garba, F. Ogunleke,   A . Abdullahi,   I. M. Okoro, and D. Wunuji. The 2nd Lieutenant is J. M. Uweh.

The other 82 who are   rank and file   are   to face the GCM alongside the 15 officers at the Nigeria Army Headquarters Garrison, Abuja.

The GCM comprises Brig. Gen. Musa Yusuf (President), and Colonels Rabe Abubakar,   Mohammed Ibrahim,   Umar Mohammed,   Godwin Ugwueze,   Jonathan Gontor,   B.R. Abimiku and Col. M.M. Bunza.

Yusuf, who announced the members of the court, also named Col. A.T. Ibrahim, Lt. Col. Victor Olatunji as waiting members.   Lt. Col. Ukpe Ukpe, an Assistant Director Legal Services at the Army Headquarters Garrison was named the Judge Advocate.

The Prosecuting Officers are Capt. J. A. Orumor, Capt. Roseline Agwai, Capt. JE Nwosu, Capt. WF David, Capt V.L. William, Lt. A.M. Sani, Lt. N. Okorie and LCPl Chukwu Prince-Augustine.

The President of the Court said during the inauguration that the officers and men would   face   offences such as mutiny, assault, absence without leave, housebreaking, conduct prejudicial to good orders and service discipline as well as offences relating to service property.

He assured the accused who appeared in two batches   at the Army Headquarters Garrison Conference Room   that the court would ensure a strict adherence to the principle of fair hearing and justice in its treatment of the cases before it.

Yusuf said that the court would ensure a holistic examination of evidence brought before it to ensure that no innocent person was convicted.

He said, “Let me further assure you that the GCM will base its decisions and findings only on facts presented before it. In order words, this court will not give room for or be influenced by any extraneous matter which is not presented before the court.

“In consonance with the desire of this GCM to do justice in this case, we shall take cognisance of the postulation of Chukwudifu Oputa, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, that justice is a three-way traffic. That is: Justice for the accused persons, justice for the victim, justice for the state.

“We intend to patiently and painstakingly listen to all evidence that will be brought before this court to ensure that no innocent person is convicted as it is better for nine guilty persons to go free than for one innocent person to suffer.”

He appealed to the 15 defence counsel and their prosecution counterparts to aid the plan of the GCM to conclude the cases without delay.

He also urged the media to ensure a balanced and patriotic reporting of the proceedings of the court in the interest of national security and the accused.

Prior to the inauguration of the court, Shuaibu Isah, from Credence Attorneys, had faulted the decision to appoint   Ukpe as the Judge Advocate .

The lawyer said it was wrong   to ask a man who advises the authorities that established the court martial to be a Judge Advocate.

He argued that Ukpe   had taken a stance on the case and given a piece of advice that obviously aided the drafting of the charges against the accused.

It was the prevalent view among the lawyers that the choice of Ukpe as the Judge advocate was a negation to the principle of fairness.

Although Ukpe and the Lead Prosecutor, Capt. Roseline Agwai, argued that the Military Police did the investigation and framing of the charges, the lawyers were of the view that the matter must be addressed when the court starts sitting on October 15, 2014, the next adjourned date for the case.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, whose law firm is defending 68 of the accused soldiers told journalists shortly after the inauguration that   lawyers would consult with their clients to take a decision on the issue of the appointment of Ukpe as Judge Advocate.

Falana agreed with an observation by another Defence Lawyer, Maj. Mike Kebonkwu (Retd.), that the accused were taken to the trial court without   being given the requisite document.

Falana said, “We don’t have the charge sheet; we don’t have the convening order; we don’t have the summary of evidence of those who are coming to give evidence and the law says that all accused persons are entitled to full materials for their own defence and the court appreciated that.

“Hence, an order has been made that all the necessary documents be made available to all the accused persons so that the trial can commence earnest on October 15.

“I have no cause to doubt the integrity of the members of the court; I have taken part in a number of courts of this nature. Even where we lost, we have had to go on appeal, and we succeeded. So there is no cause for alarm. I think the President of the court has assured the accused persons that justice will be done.’’

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