The Nigerian Army on Thursday inaugurated a nine-man court-martial to try 97 soldiers alleged to have been involved in mutiny, indiscipline, unprofessional conduct, absence without leave, and assault.
Members of the court-martial are Col. Umar Ibrahim Mohammed, Col. JD Gontor, Col. BR Abimik, Col. Abubakar, Col. Muktar Gwoza, Col. Godwin Anayo Ugwueze, Col. Abubakar Kabir Mohammed, and Col. Mohammed Lawan Ibrahim.
To preside over the court-martial is Brigadier-General N. S. Yusuf, while human rights lawyer and former chairman of the West African Bar Association (WABA), Femi Falana, is defence counsel for 68 of the 97 soldiers on trial.
This batch of soldiers allegedly refused to participate in a military operation against Boko Haram in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, on 4th August 2014.
After judge advocate, Lt. Col. Ukpe Ukpe inaugurated the members and president of the court-martial, Brig-Gen Yusuf, listed the offences of the accused.
However, he gave assurance that the trial would be free and fair. “Any soldier who is found to be innocent will be set free,” he said. “It is better to free nine guilty persons than to convict one innocent person.”
Yusuf fixed October 15, 2014 for continuation of the trial.
Earlier, on September 26, at the Mogadishu cantonment, Abuja, a military court-martial sentenced 12 soldiers to death after they were found guilty of committing mutiny in Maiduguri, Borno State, in May.
The 12 soldiers pronounced guilty of both mutiny and criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny were Cpl Jasper Braidolor, Cpl David Musa, LCpl Friday Onun, LCplYusuf Shuaibu, LCpl Igomu Emmanuel, Pte Andrew Ngbede, Pte Nurudeen Ahmed, Pte Ifeanyi Alukhagbe, Pte Alao Samuel, Pte Amadi Chukwudi, Pte Allan Linus, and LCpl Stephen Clement.
However, the court martial found five other soldiers innocent of all five counts of insubordinate behaviour, false accusation, mutiny, AWOL and conduct to the prejudice of service discipline.