Lagos based radical lawyer and rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), on Tuesday sent a petition to the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, over allegation of what he termed unjust treatment dished out to three groups of soldiers who are either being currently prosecuted or convicted at the General Courts-Martial.
The SAN in his petition entitled, “Petition brought pursuant to section 149 of the Armed Forces Act and section 42 of the constitution for the review of the cases of convicted officers and soldiers and others who are on trial,” dated September 5, 2015 wants a review of the cases of the three groups of soldiers.
The human rights lawyer maintained that the judgment of the courts-martial, which sentenced some soldiers to death for mutiny amounted to grave injustice in view of the “belated” revelation by the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh (retd.), “that the armed forces led by him lacked the equipment to fight the insurgents in the North -East region.
The petition reads: “Following the commendable decision of the Buhari Administration and the military authorities to reinstate 3,032 officers and soldiers who were illegally dismissed from the Nigerian Army last year, we have been instructed by three groups of officers and soldiers to appeal to your good self to review the unjust treatment meted out to them over their role in the prosecution of the war on terror.
“The three groups are: The 70 soldiers who were convicted and sentenced to death in September and December 2014 by two General Courts-Martial whose findings have not been confirmed.
“Scores of officers and soldiers who were convicted and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment by General Courts-Martial.
“Senior officers and soldiers who are currently being prosecuted in Special and General Courts-Martial in Lagos and Abuja respectively.
“As you are no doubt aware, the convicts and the suspects undergoing trial are alleged to have committed mutiny, cowardly behaviour, loss of equipment, failure to perform military duties and sundry offences.
“In the course of the concluded trials, it was established that the said offences arose from the negligence of the authorities to provide adequate weapons for the armed forces in line with section 217 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
“In other words, the only “offence” proved against the convicts by the Prosecution was that they had the temerity to ask for weapons to fight the war on terror.
“In view of the grave injustice which informed the conviction and sentences passed on the officers and soldiers by the Courts-Martial, we made a passionate appeal to the Army Council and the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, General Kenneth Minimah, not to confirm the iniquitous findings.
“But for some inexplicable reasons, the findings were not reviewed as the record of proceedings of the Courts-Martial were not transmitted within 60 days from the date of the verdict.
“Thus, by refusing to confirm and promulgate the findings, the convicts have been denied the opportunity to file any appeal against the convictions and sentences at the Court of Appeal in line with section 175 of the Armed Forces Act.”