by Fidelis Soriwei and Ade Adesomoju
Another set of 60 soldiers are to be arraigned before a General Court Martial by military authorities in Abuja on Tuesday (today) for mutiny.
The soldiers allegedly committed mutiny on August 4, 2014 by refusing to join troops in Maiduguri for “an operation.”
Their arraignment which is to take place at the Sani Abacha Barracks in Abuja comes as The PUNCH gathered on Monday that some of the 12 soldiers convicted on September 15, 2014 by the GCM had notified the Court of Appeal of their intention to challenge their sentences.
The GCM headed by Brig. Gen. C. Okonkwo had sentenced 12 out of 18 soldiers facing trial guilty of mutiny among other offences and sentenced them to death. Five of them were however discharged and acquitted and one sentenced to 28 days’ imprisonment with hard labour and reprimand.
The soldiers were charged with mutiny among other offences, including attacking the former General Officer Commanding the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, Ahmed Mohammed.
A copy of the charge sheet filed against the 60 soldiers was obtained by The PUNCH in Abuja on Monday.
The charge sheet revealed that the soldiers, comprising two corporals, nine lance corporals and 49 privates, are to be arraigned on two counts of conspiracy to commit mutiny and mutiny.
Soldiers facing trial
The accused allegedly committed the offences at the Mulai Primary School, opposite African Independent Television in Maiduguri, Borno State on August 4, 2014 by refusing to join “111 SF Bn troops” led by Col. E.A. Aladeniyi to Maimalari Barracks in connection with an operation.
According to the charge sheet, they “conspired to commit mutiny against the authority of 7 Division,” an offence said to be punishable under Section 91(1) of the Penal Code Cap P89 LFN 2004.
The soldiers were also accused of committing mutiny which is said to be punishable under Section 52(1)(a) of the AFA CAP A20 LFN 2004.
The charges are said to be triable in the GCM under Section 114 of the AFA Cap A20 LFN 2004 and punishable under Section 91(1) of the Penal Code Cap P89 LFN 2004.
The two corporals are Andrew Ogolekwu and Saturday Efa.
The charge sheet reads, “Count One: Criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny triable by the General Court Martial by virtue of Section 114 of the AFA Cap A20 LFN 2004 and punishable under section 91(1) of the Penal Code Cap P 89 LFN 2004.
“Particulars of offence: In that you at Mulai Primary School Camp opposite AIT Maiduguri on or about 4 August 2014 conspired to commit mutiny against the authority of 7 Division.
“Count 2: Mutiny contrary to and punishable under section 52(1)(a) of the AFA CAP A20 LFN 2004.
“Particulars of offence: In that you at Mulai Primary School Camp opposite AIT Maiduguri on or about 4 August 2014 refused to join 111 SF BN troops led by Col. E.A. Aladeniyi (N/9695) to Maimalari Barracks in connection with an operation.”
Indications had emerged on Sunday that lawyers seeking to file an appeal challenging the conviction of some of the 12 soldiers by the GCM had not been able to have access to them.
There were reports that the convicted soldiers had been moved from the Defence Headquarters Garrison, Abuja to a detention facility at the Directorate of Defence Intelligence, Lagos.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Godwin Obla, who brought the process of appeal on behalf of three of the convicted soldiers, said his chambers had made unsuccessful attempts to get in touch with them without success.
The soldiers are Iganmu Emmanuel, Steven Clement and Andrew Ngbede.
Obla told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the military did not volunteer information on where the convicts were being kept.
He said that the inability to locate them had hampered the completion of the appeal process as they had not been available to sign some documents required for the appeal.
The SAN said, “We have been trying to get them (the soldiers) to sign for the process; and because we have not been able to get them, we have not been able to complete the process; there are things for them to sign.
“Nobody has been able to tell us where they are being kept; nobody is volunteering information; nobody has been able to tell us where they are.
“We are just hearing that they have been moved to the Directorate of Military Intelligence Cell in Lagos.
“We will make the move so that the process would be filed on their behalf.”
Soldiers facing trial
Obla also said that the filing process at the Court of Appeal had not been completed because the findings against and the sentencing of the soldiers by the GCM had not been promulgated and communicated to them.
He said that the filing could only be made after the findings and the verdict of the court martial had been promulgated and communicated to them.
Obla said, “The findings and sentence by the General Court Martial need to be promulgated and it is to be communicated to the convicts. It has not been communicated to them.
“It is after the findings and the sentence have been communicated to the convicts that the filing can be made.”
A lawyer from Obla’s law firm, Mr. Enokela Onyilo-Uloko, said that the law firm of a former President of the Senate, Chief Amah Ebute, was handling the defence of six of the convicted soldiers.
He listed those being represented by Ebute’s law firm as Jasper Braidolor, Friday Onuh, Alao Samuel, Linus Alan, Ifeanyi Alukagbe and Amadi Chukwudi.
He said, “Nine of the soldiers are already before the Court of Appeal; the appeals are within time; we are awaiting the hearing date from the Court of Appeal.
“A motion for Stay of Execution is being filed to make sure they don’t tamper with them.”
When The PUNCH sought to know from the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Olajide Laleye, if the conviction of the soldiers had been confirmed by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, he said he was not aware.
“I am not aware if the judgment has been confirmed or not; I don’t have that information,” Laleye said
The PUNCH had reported on Friday that the Army might soon arraign 13 soldiers for cowardice and failure to obey orders from their superiors to advance at the (war) front.
The soldiers were said to have been directed to join their counterparts at the 7 Division, entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating the ongoing counter-terrorism operation in the North-East early in the year.