by Mayowa Aboah
Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has called on military authorities to reconsider the decision taken against the twelve soldiers who have been sentenced to death for mutiny, as the soldiers had only reacted based on in-house unfavourable conditions around them.
The 12 soldiers are among 18 soldiers arraigned for mutiny for firing shots at the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 7th division of Nigerian Army, Major General Ahmed Mohammed on May 14, 2014 in Maiduguri.
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. Falana pointed out that while mutiny cannot be condoned by the armed forces because it strikes at the foundation of discipline in the military, he emphasised 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.
In the circumstance, the 12 convicts should have been charged under section 52(2) of the Armed Forces Act which provides for life imprisonment. He noted that the General Officer Commanding whose car was shot at was not killed. He said this explained why the soldiers were charged with attempted murder which does not attract the death penalty. The lawyer recalled that in the case of the Akure 27, the convicted soldiers were equally charged with mutiny but convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The convicts were found guilty of criminal conspiracy, mutiny, attempt to commit murder, insubordination to a particular order and false accusation. Should the death sentence be confirmed by the Army Council, Falana advised the convicted soldiers to take the case to the Court of Appeal.
Falana remarked that the Court of Appeal is likely to follow its decision in the case of Yussuf and 21 others versus Nigerian Army (2003) 36 WRN 68 “wherein the sentence of life imprisonment passed on the appellants who had rioted at the Cairo Airport in Egypt was quashed.
“It was the finding of the Court that the offence of mutiny complained of by the respondent was instigated by the officers who had diverted the medical allowances which ought to have been paid to the convicts while receiving medical treatment in Egypt”, he stated.
He said the Army Council reduced the sentence of life imprisonment to seven years and later pardoned the convicts.