Mr Femi Falana (SAN), a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, has called on the Nigerian military authorities to disband its courts-martial which tried and sentenced officers and soldiers for alleged mutiny in the war against Boko Haram insurgency, and discharge the soldiers on trial forthwith.
Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and counsel to some of the convicted soldiers, stated this in a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday.
He said that the recent comment made by the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Rtd. Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, that the military under his watch lacked the necessary equipment and morale to Boko Haram, had vindicated the soldiers.
Falana further urged the military to charge the former defence chief with mutiny for deceiving the nation and troops when he was at the helm of affairs in the heat of the war against insurgency.
He alleged that Badeh demobilized troops under the false claim that the Federal Government had reached a truce with Boko Haram and falsely justified the trials of the soldiers by claiming that “a soldier with a rifle cannot claim to be under-equipped.’’
Falana said: “In the light of the foregoing, we call on the military authorities to disband the two courts-martial currently sitting in Lagos and Abuja and discharge the officers and soldiers on trial. Since those who set up the military courts have admitted that they led a military which was neither equipped nor motivated to confront the well-equipped enemy, there is no longer any legal or moral basis for the trials
“In view of the injustice which characterized the exercise, we had pleaded with the authorities to review the exercise and pointed out that the decision to dismiss 1000 young men who had been trained to handle weapons was a threat to national security.
“Our appeal fell on deaf ears. As the action could not be justified under the Armed Forces Act, we have had to approach the National Industrial Court for redress on behalf of hundreds of dismissed soldiers. The cases are pending in the court.”
Falana also contended that the courts-martial were mere subterfuge by the military to divert attention from its inadequacies, as evident in the removal of the General Officer Commanding the 7th Infantry Division of the Nigerian Army based in Maiduguri, Borno State at the time of the alleged mutiny.
He continued: “Apart from setting up courts-martial to divert attention and cover up the short comings of the military authorities, Marshal Badeh engaged in deceiving the troops and the nation.
“For instance, on May 27, 2014, he raised the hope of the traumatised parents of the Chibok girls when he claimed that ‘The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are but we cannot tell you. Just leave us alone to do our work. We are working to get the girls back.’
“As if that was not enough, Marshal Badeh addressed a world press conference on October 17, 2014 wherein he disclosed that the Federal Government had reached a truce with the Boko Haram sect and proceeded to order Nigerian soldiers to stop further attacking the terrorists in line with the terms of the ‘ceasefire.’ It turned out that the fake ceasefire was arranged by the military authorities to dupe the Federal Government.”
It would be recalled that the military authorities court-martialled several soldiers for desertion and for disobeying direct orders to engage the terrorists after losing territories, battles and weapons to the insurgents in 2014 and were either sentenced to death by firing squad or dismissed.
However, it was gathered that the soldiers’ grouse was that they were provided with obsolete and inferior weapons to fight the insurgents who had sophisticated weapons, and their superior officers were also diverting allowances meant for them.
Meanwhile, the Army spokesman, Col. Sani Usman, also announced on Sunday that it had set up a committee to review the cases of all soldiers dismissed for mutiny and other sundry offences to give them proper opportunity to defend themselves.