Grant presidential pardon to convicted soldiers, Falana urges Buhari

FILE PHOTO: The soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny in September 2014
FILE PHOTO: The soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny in September 2014

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to grant presidential pardon to the soldiers convicted for mutiny by a military court martial.

In a petition addressed to the president, Mr. Falana‎ said the findings of the Arms Procurement Panel, instituted by Mr. Buhari, had vindicated the soldiers.

Last year, Yussuf Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, ordered the immediate reinstatement of about 3,000 soldiers dismissed by the previous administration over the same offence.

Mr. Buratai also commuted the death sentences passed on 66 out of 70 condemned soldiers to 10 years imprisonment.

“Since the soldiers who have been reinstated and the scores of others who were convicted by the courts-martial were alleged to have committed the same ‘offence’ General Butarai ought to have treated them in like manner,” Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, stated in the petition dated January 15.

“In other words, all the convicted soldiers should equally have been pardoned and reinstated without any conditions.

“More so, that the Arms Procurement Panel instituted by Your Excellency has confirmed that the sum of $2.1 billion and N643 billion set aside for the purchase of equipment for counter insurgency operations was allegedly diverted by the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki and his several accomplices.

“It has been further revealed by the Panel that another sum of 42 billion and N69 billion for procurement of arms for the Nigeria Air Force was equally diverted by a coterie of serving and retired military officers and their civilian accomplices.”

In urging Mr. Buhari to exercise his “prerogative of mercy” in favour of the convicted soldiers, Mr. Falana said the president himself had admitted in a BBC Hausa Service on December 28 that the soldiers who were convicted for mutiny were ill-equipped.

“In urging Your Excellency to pardon the convicted soldiers we are not unaware of the belief in military circles that a protest by members of the armed forces constitutes mutiny,” Mr. Falana said.

“As the belief does not represent the current state of the law we are compelled to draw Your Excellency’s attention to the case of Cpl Oladele & 22 Ors v Nigerian Army (2003) 36 WRN 48.

“In that case the appellants who were injured in the ECOMOG peace keeping operations in Liberia were flown to Egypt for medical treatment. On the day they were to return to Nigeria, they protested violently at the Cairo Airport over the non-payment of their medical allowance. Upon their return to Nigeria they were charged with mutiny before a court-martial which convicted and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

“However, the conviction and the sentences passed on the 23 soldiers were set aside by the Court of Appeal. Having regards to the facts and circumstances of the case, Aderemi J.C.A (as he then was) had this to say:

‘Mutiny is a criminal offence of a serious dimension. The pieces of evidence that l reviewed have not shown that the appellants disobeyed any order deliberately nor did they use any violence. If anything at all, all they did was to protest the non – payment of their estacode. Such a protest finds justification on the admission of PW4 that he had paid some soldiers who earlier travelled with some estacode and was emphatic that the Appellants were not prohibited but there was no express provision for the payment of estacode to them.'”

‎Mr. Falana argued that the convicted soldiers’ demand had found justification in the alleged diversion of funds meant for the purchase of arms to combat insurgency.

‎”No doubt, General Butarai identified the gross injustice meted out to the soldiers,” he said.

“But instead of quashing the unjust findings of the courts-martial he merely reduced the death sentences passed on 66 out of 70 condemned soldiers to 10 years imprisonment.

“In order to ensure that justice is done in this case we urge Your Excellency to pardon all members of the armed forces who were convicted by military courts for demanding for adequate weapons to fight the Boko Haram terrorists.”

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  • Aremu Mathew Okikiolu

    Equity, Mr. President!

  • eclub

    Does the administration consider it a virtue that they fought BH in the first place?

  • Dele Olaitan

    This is a patriotic call and I want to support the appeal. It is indeed fair, just and equitable that the C – In – C specially consider Mr Falana’s appeal on the grounds stated.

    I would wish to also appeal that GMB please graciously use this case to educate those who do not know, remind those who might have forgotten and caution those who know, did’nt forget but are mischevious that INJUSTICE HAS NO PLACE IN THE MILITARY. IT IS NOT ONLY ANTITHESIS TO DISCIPLINE BUT IS AN ANATHEMA TO THE PROFESSION. If a soldier does not protest injustice, then what is his essence? And if a soldier or soldiers should protest acts of injustice of their Commanders, then what and where is discipline? Fish rots from the head, not tail up.

    Furthermore, I want to appeal that GMB please graciously consider granting these very brave, courageous and gallant soldiers awards for unparalleled acts of patriotism. They were the first patriots to alert the nation to the grave dangers of combating terrorism with bare hands. Only that the powers that be then twisted their story and decided to make them scape goats through kangaroo trials. Now that we know better, must we perpetuate that evil?

    Lastly, the C – In – C should please use this case to allay the fears of intimadation, witch hunting, threats etc that usually subdue, suppress, inhibit and prevent most victims of injustice and maltreatment in the military from speaking out. This shall be done by expressly pronoucing grave repercussions for anyone that makes any soldier or soldiers as much as grumble as a result of any act of injustice. This shall go a long way to rekindle the dimming lights of military profession in Nigeria

    So, in the spirit of CHANGE, the C -In – C should graciously depart from the very ugly and terrible ways of the past by entrenching true courage, discipline and esprit de corp in the military and do all the above. This is because if soldiers are allowed to be pushed beyond limits of endurance by those who are supposed to be their role models, Nigeria’s security and safety shall be gravely endangered.

  • Paul Graham

    Considering Dasukigate, it’s the right thing to do!