A Special Army Court Martial has demoted a senior officer, Patrick Falola, from the rank of Major General to Brigadier-General, for admitting students for clinical training without permission from higher authorities.
Mr. Falola, Director, 68 Military Reference Hospital, Yaba, Lagos State, was arraigned on a two-count charge before a court martial presided over by James Gbum, an Air Vice Marshal.
Mr. Falola admitted international students from Espan Formation University, Cotonou, in Benin Republic, between July and September, 2016.
Mr. Gbum, the president of the court martial, said Mr. Falola’s conduct amounted to fraudulent use of the armed forces’ property.
He acquitted Mr. Falola on the charge of conduct prejudice the service, but convicted him on fraudulent misapplication of the hospital’s property.
“This court is compelled to award a higher punishment under sections 103 and 66 of the Armed Forces Act Cap A 20 laws of the Federation 2004.
“The court has taken into consideration the service record of the convicted senior officer, the touching plea in mitigation by the defence council as well as the demeanor of the convicted officer.
“But we have also taken into consideration the senior officer’s seniority, rank, experience and the regimental tradition of the armed forces.
“This court has discharged and acquitted the convicted officer on the first charge, on the second offence, the sentence is reduction in rank to Brigadier General,” he said.
Mr. Gbum said the filing and sentence were subject to confirmation by the Nigerian Army Council which was the confirming authority.
He said the convicted officer would maintain his rank until the council concludes the confirmation process.
The prosecuting counsel, Ukpe Ukpe, a Lt. Col., told journalists that the convicted officer was arraigned for using the Nigerian army’s property to train students from neighbouring Benin Republic without following the necessary procedure.
Mr. Ukpe said the judgment was a balanced one as the court was very liberal in meting out punishment.
“If you check Section 115 of the Alarmed Forces Act, the offence falls under Section 68. Punishment that could be meted out include dismissal, imprisonment or even death; but the court went down to reduction in rank which is balanced enough.”
The defence council, Enokela Onyilo-Uloko, a retired Wing Cdr., said the conviction had no legal backing and was an attempt to tarnish the clean record of his client.
Mr. Onyilo-Uloko said this was because there was no law stating that senior officers must take permission from higher authorities before allowing such training.
He said his client only did what his predecessors also did, which was no crime, adding that his client would appeal.
“No such law was tendered in evidence but they are saying he should have used his initiative when there is no law finalising an act. It does not amount to criminal offence that my client is being tried for.
“So, the conviction is based on nothing and cannot stand the light of day in the eye of the law.
“And when we go higher to the Court of Appeal, I assure you, this conviction will be thrown out,” he said. (NAN)