A military tribunal sitting in Maiduguri, Borno state, Tuesday sentenced a staff sergeant in the Nigeria Army to three years behind bars for causing permanent disability of a ten-year-old boy.
The convict, Umar Sule, who has served 26 years in the army, was also stripped of all ranks and demoted to a private by the tribunal presided over by Olusegun Adeniyi, a brigadier-general.
Mr. Sule, according the charge sheet presented to the military court martial, inflicted a permanent injury on Muhammed Sale by tying him up for stealing his N2000.
The tall and heavily built demoted officer admitted before the court martial that he tied the two hands of the boy to a poll for over seven hours.
Due to the torture, Sale’s two wrists suffered gangrene. The condition is a premature death of cell caused by lack of blood flow.
Doctors later had Sale’s jaundiced right hand amputated. The other, though paralyzed, was partially salvaged by grafting of skin from the victim’s lap to patch it up.
The National Human Right Commission took up the matter by petitioning the Nigerian Army on the conduct of the soldier.
The Army responded by arraigning Mr. Sule before the court martial, which was set up on August 11 to try miscellaneous offences under the military’s Operation Lafiya Dole.
The court found the accused soldier guilty of two charges of “unlawful assault, and disobedience of standing order of the Nigerian armed forces by entertaining a minor at his guard location”.
Delivering the ruling, President of the court martial, Mr. Adeniyi, said:
“Having found you guilty of the charges against you, and having listened to the prosecution counsel urging this court to treat you as a first offender, and this convict’s touching plea to litigation, we have also looked at various punishments provided by both section 104, sub-section 2B of Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Laws of the Federation 2004, as well as section 119 of Armed Forces Act CAPA20 Laws of the Federation 2004.
“This court also considered the need to ensure discipline in the system. This court therefore sentence you as follows; on Count one, three years imprisonment; on count two, reduced to private. This sentence is however subject to confirmation by the confirming authority as provided by Section 141 Sub-section 2 and Section 152, Sub-section 1A of the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004”.
The representative of the NHRC at the trial commended the Nigeria Army for ensuring that the victim got justice via a transparent trial.
She said the NHRC office would help the victim “who now has to live with permanent disability for the rest of his life” to pursue compensation through the civil court.
“We commend the Nigeria Army for a job well done, because we brought the complaint to them in March, 2016, and by October, they are done with the case.
“In respect of getting compensation for the victim, we will communicate with our head office which has the powers to take that decision; but we are going to send our recommendation to ensure that this is achieved”.
She also commended the General Officer Commanding of 7 Division, Nigeria Army for offering to sponsor the boy’s education.
The father of the boy, Usman Muhammed, narrated to journalists at the venue of the tribunal the events that led to his son’s brutalization.
“My son, who used to go to the soldiers’ base for errands, was invited on that fateful day by Sergeant Sule who said his N2000 was stolen. My son confessed to him that he was the one that took it, and that he should forgive him.
“Sergeant Sule asked my son to wait for him to return from the Friday mosque. When he returned from the mosque, he tied up his two hands to an electric pole, and left him there for over seven hours. He tied his hands with a rubber bound and continued to flog him for that long period.
“When he finally left him after hours of plea, the two hands had been damaged. When we took him to the hospital, we were told that the right hand had gone bad and had to be amputated. The left hand too was almost beyond repair, they had to peel off skin from his leg to patch it up. As it is now, the boy has lost two hands due to the action of a soldier”, said Mr Muhammed.
He said he was pleased with the judgment of the court martial, even as he worried that his son still needed support now that he would have to live the rest of his life with no hands.
The victim’s mother, Amina Usman, said her son now depended on her to feed, bathe and even clean up after using the toilet.
The tribunal adjourned to October 20, when it will continue the trial of other senior officers of the Nigerian Army charged with diversion and sale of arms and ammunition.