By Duku Joel
Maiduguri (Precise Post) – The Nigerian Army (NA) has put on trial 130 soldiers accused of various offences in the course of their duty.
The trial is said to be the parade of the largest number of soldiers in the history of Army court martial in the country.
According to The Nation, the affected soldiers were reportedly those in the theatre command of Operation Lafiya Dole in the Northeast.
The indicted soldiers, who are young in age and ranks, will undergo trial in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, at two different court martial recently inaugurated by the Army and the Theatre Command.
They are in their early 20s and late 20s.
Investigation also revealed that the processes for their trial had been concluded with the inauguration of the two military court martial by the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole and the Acting General Officer Commander (GOC) 7 Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri.
The young soldiers, according to military authorities, are standing trial for dereliction of duty, indiscipline, desertion, cowardice and lackadaisical attitude to the fight against insurgency, among other offences.
The Theatre Commander and the GOC 7 Division have defended their action in setting up the two court martial, based on the provisions of Section 131(2)(d) of the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20 LFN.
During the inauguration of the General Court Martial at the Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri last week, the Acting GOC, Brig.-Gen. Abdul Ibrahim said: “The military, all over the world, is known for the maintenance of discipline and decorum while discharging its duties. The ability of the military to ensure success in operations is better achieved when the ethics and traditions aimed at enhancing discipline are encouraged.
“In this regard, acts of cowardice, desertion, unsoldierly behaviour and other forms of indiscipline have no place in the Army, more so, an army executing a war. It is against this background that I decided to convene a General Court Martial under my command.
“The powers conferred on me as a GOC under Section 131, sub-section (d) of the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20 LFN, are brought to bear in fulfilling this command reasonability.”
The GOC assured all that the court martial would be impartial.
“This court does not have any special interest to serve rather than routine duties carried out within the legal confines of regimentation.
“This goes to show that the principle of natural justice, equity and fairness, which are enabling pillars of this General Court Martial, will surely guide its conducts throughout,” he said.
Ibrahim urged the Judge Advocate of the court to use wisdom and courage to discharge his assignment in the interest of fairness and justice.
The Judge Advocate of the Court, Captain Aminu Mairuwa, announced that about 80 soldiers were facing trial for various offences.
He said those convicted would have a chance to appeal at a higher court.
“This court is equivalent to a High Court and its judgment could be appealed at the Court of Appeal,” he said.
There was another inauguration of two special court martial by the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Olusegun Gabriel Adeniyi.
The Special Court Martial I and Special Court Martial II, last Friday at Officers Mess of Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri, was also put together for trial of about 50 different senior and junior military officers.
Others offenders include soldiers who allegedly breached the military rules and instructions during their assignments/engagements.
The visibly furious and disappointed theatre commander during the inauguration said: “It is worrisome to observe the increasing cases of negligence, lackadaisical and cowardly attitudes of many of our personnel during Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) offensive actions across the theatre today.
“These unprofessional and disgraceful habits have led to the death of many of our gallant colleagues and these attitudes must not be allowed to continue, if we must retain our national pride.”