The military court sitting in Abuja on Monday, September 15, 2014, found 13 out of the 18 soldiers standing trial for mutiny and other offences guilty.
12 of the convicted soldiers who were sentenced to death were Jasper Braidolor, David Musa, Friday Onuh, Yusuf Shuaibu, Igonmu Emmanuel, Andrew Ugbede, Nurudeen Ahmed, Ifeanyi Alukagba, Alao Samuel, Amadi Chukwuma, Alan Linus and Stephen Clement.
Five were, however, discharged and acquitted, while the remaining one was jailed for 28 days with hard labour.
An act viewed in the military as mutiny, the soldiers had on May 14, 2014, fired shots at the General Officer Commanding the newly created 7 Division of Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Mohammmed, in Maiduguri, Borno State.
But the death sentence given to the 12 soldiers by the President of the Court Martial, Maj. Gen. C. C. Okonkwo has attracted condemnation by prominent Nigerians, including activists, human rights lawyers and public commentators.
ENCOMIUM Weekly asked them why they want the soldiers to live.
‘THEY SHOULD BE GIVEN A LIGHTER SENTENCE’ – Mohammed Fawehinmi (Legal practitioner)
I think they should not be killed, they should be given a lighter sentence. The essence is to punish them not for them to be killed. There must be a reason for them to behave the way they did. This is the first time such will be happening, the case calls for proper investigations.
‘THEY GOT A WRONG SIGNAL THAT MADE ANGRY’ – Monday Ubani (Legal practitioner)
Those officers were maltreated, they got a wrong signal that made them angry. The circumstance and situation surrounding the alleged offense should be re- considered. They should be given a light sentence.
‘THE 12 SOLDIERS DON’T DESERVE TO DIE’ – Femi Falana (SAN)
While mutiny cannot be condoned by the armed forces because it strikes at the foundation of discipline in the military, it ought to be pointed out that the 18 soldiers were erroneously charged under section 52(1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Fortunately, the General Officer Commanding whose car was shot at was not killed. Hence, the soldiers were charged with attempted murder which does not attract the death penalty.
The 12 convicts should have been charged under section 52(2) of the Armed Forces Act which provides for life imprisonment, just like in the case of the Akure 27 in which the convicted soldiers were equally charged with mutiny but convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Before the incident, the soldiers at the Maimalari cantonment had complained of insufficient ammunition, food and allowances. The visit of the GOC was said to have coincided with the arrival of the corpses of soldiers killed in an ambush in Chibok on the night of May 13, 2014. It was the tragic situation which reportedly infuriated the soldiers. Having investigated and confirmed the circumstances which led to the mutiny in question, the military authorities removed the GOC.
In the light of the foregoing, we urge the Army Council not to confirm the death sentence passed on the 12 soldiers but commute same to imprisonment in the interest of Justice. The facts and circumstance of the mutinous act of the convicted soldiers should be taken into consideration.
In the case of Akure 27, the Army Council reduced the sentence of life imprisonment to 7 years and later pardoned the convicts after taking into cognisance the fact that the allowances of the convicts who had served in Liberia were diverted by some military officers.
‘ALL NIGERIANS MUST RISE TO THEIR CAUSE’ – Hon. Dino Melaye
I want well meaning Nigerians to rise to the cause of the 12 soldiers sentenced to death. For me, capital punishment is too harsh. We have to mobilise Nigerians on this. They must not die.
‘I THINK WE STILL NEED TO TAKE A CRITICAL LOOK AT THE MILITARY AGAIN’ – Wale Okunniyi (Activist)
The reason mutiny happened was that all is not well with the Nigerian Army. The soldiers have lost confidence in the government and the military in aspect of taking good care of them. I think we still need to take a critical look at the military again and do what is called regional regimentation.
We have recruitment and enlistment of people into the military on regional basis so that soldiers can have more stakes in the defence of their regions.
About the soldiers sentenced having been pronounced guilty of mutiny, I don’t know the criteria but I think the military should have been lenient with them based on the circumstance that informed their action.