Sept 17, 2014 – Death Sentence For Nigerian Soldiers: Femi Falana & Agbaje Call For Justice
Femi Falana Seeks Justice For 12 Convicted Soldiers “Attempted Murder Doesn’t Warrant Death Penalty”
2 seniors lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) and Fred Agbaje have faulted the decision of the General Court Martial, which tried 18 soldiers for mutinous acts in Maiduguri, Borno State on May 14, saying it was wrong to sentence 12 of them to death.
Speaking on the judgment of the military court delivered in Abuja yesterday, Falana said the condemned soldiers should have been sentenced to life imprisonment on conviction.
But Agbaje called for strict scrutiny of the sentence to know whether it conformed to the provisions of sections 6 and 36 of the nation’s constitution.
“The right to life, coupled with the rights to a fair-hearing vested in every Nigerian cannot be lightly toyed with in any trial whether administrative, court martial or even by the regular courts. Hence to decree death sentence for a citizen of this country without the fullest compliance with the rules governing jurisdiction, fair-hearing or want of due process is a travesty of sections 6 and 36 of the constitution, which provisions supercede any other laws including Martial Laws,” Agbaje stated.
Though Falana agreed that 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.
“In the circumstance, the 12 convicts should have been charged under section 52(2) of the Armed Forces Act, which provides for life imprisonment. In the case of the Akure 27, the convicted soldiers were equally charged with mutiny but convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.”
He, however, suggested that the soldiers might have been compelled by the circumstances at their cantonment to rebel against their superiors.
“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 recalled.
While Falana urged the military authorities not to approve the death sentences, Agbaje called on President Goodluck Jonathan to exercise his power of prerogative of mercy to stall the sentence while the convicts seek redress at the Court of Appeal.
The General Court Martial, which tried the 18 soldiers, had discharged and acquitted five, sentenced one to 28 years imprisonment and condemned 12 for criminal conspiracy, mutiny, attempt to commit murder, insubordination to a particular order and false accusation.
[Reported By Daily Sun]