Nigerian military sentences another 4 soldiers to death for mutiny

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

The Nigerian military court-martial sitting in Abuja has sentenced another group of four soldiers, accused of mutiny, to death by firing squad.

The court delivered its judgment Wednesday night in another case involving five soldiers.

Bankole Taiwo (lance corporal), Ayodele Olawale (lance corporal), Isaiah Olofu (lance corporal) and Adebayo Gbenga (private) were convicted and sentenced to death while Sule Ochehepo (lance corporal) was discharged and acquitted.

According to a source familiar with the trial, “the allegation against the soldiers was that they asked “inciting questions” from their Commanding Officer of 81 Batallion when he addressed them on September 14, 2013.

“The questions pertained to the corpses of some of their colleagues brought to the camp after they were killed by the Boko Haram terrorists due to lack of weapons. The charge of mutiny was that the 5 soldiers “incited soldiers of 81 Bn to mutiny against the authority of 7 Division of Nigerian Army”.

They pleaded double jeopardy that they had been tried summarily by their commanding officer, convicted and sentenced and that they had served the punishment, our source said.

“The record of proceedings of the earlier trial was tendered and admitted in evidence by the court-martial. But the court-martial headed by Brig-General M.S Yusuf did not consider the defence of the soldiers,” the source added.

Altogether, 71 soldiers have been sentenced to death for protesting alleged non-payment of salaries and allowances and failure of the authorities to provide equipment to confront the well-equipped Boko Haram troops.

Hundreds of other soldiers are currently awaiting trial in Abuja, Jos and Lagos for mutiny, negligence and cowardice and allied offences. They are due to be arraigned after the Christmas vacation.

The judgment on the five soldiers came just about a week after another batch of 54 soldiers were condemned to death for refusing to fight the deadly Boko Haram sect.

The 54 soldiers belonged to the 111 Special Forces battalion attached to the 7 division of the army in Maiduguri. They are to die by firing squad, the military court ruled last week.

The soldiers were accused of disobeying a direct order from superior officers to take part in an operation aimed at dislodging Boko Haram terrorists from Delwa, Bulabulin and Damboa in Borno State.

The soldiers said they refused to take part in the operation because the Army did not provide them with the required combat and support equipment needed for such operations.

Also, in September, 12 soldiers were sentenced to death by firing squad for shooting at a car conveying their commanding officer, Ahmed Mohammed, a Major General.

The attack occurred May 14 at the army’s 7 Division, Maimalari Barracks in Maiduguri, headed at the time by Mr. Mohammed.

Others were also sentenced to life in jail for criminal conspiracy and attempt to commit murder.

The soldiers revolted after some of their colleagues were ambushed and killed by Boko Haram extremists, an attack they blamed their commander for.

Yet, more soldiers remain on trial for their conducts in the fight against the extremist sect, and face being sentenced to death.

On Tuesday, another batch of 118 soldiers were transported from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to face charges in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

It is not clear when the troops would be arraigned before the military court, but our sources said unlike their colleagues who were convicted December 17, the 118 soldiers are accused of offences less than mutiny.

Also, 22 top officers, including a brigadier general, are being held at the Ikeja Military Cantonment in Lagos, preparatory to being arraigned for yet unclear offences.

They could not be arraigned on December 22 because the court was not properly constituted.

Their arraignment has now been scheduled for a date in January.

The convicted soldiers, apart from the four that were sentenced  Wednesday, have been moved to Lagos to await appeal, pardon or execution.

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