A court-martial in Abuja on Tuesday sentenced 12 soldiers to death by firing squad for mutiny.
The court, which handed the judgment at 1.35 a.m., also handed a one-month jail sentence on a soldier and freed five others.
The condemned soldiers are Cpl. Jasper Braidolor, Cpl. David Musa, Lance Cpl. Friday Onun, Lance Cpl. Yusuf Shuaibu, Lance Cpl. Igomu Emmanuel and Pte. Andrew Ngbede.
The others are Pte. Nurudeen Ahmed, Pte. Ifeanyi Alukhagbe, Pte. Alao Samuel, Pte. Amadi Chukwudi, Pte. Allan Linus and Lance Cpl. Stephen Clement.
The President of the Court, Brig.-Gen. C.C. Okonkwo, while announcing the sentences, however, said that the decisions were subject to “confirmation”.
Eighteen soldiers were arraigned on a six-court charge bordering on inciting mutiny against the GOC, 7 Division, Maimalari Barracks in Maiduguri, Maj-Gen. Ahmed Mohammed, on May 14.
While five of the accused were discharged and acquitted, Pte. Ichocho Jeremiah was sentenced to 28-day imprisonment with hard labour for being absent without official leave.
The 12 condemned men were found guilty of mutiny, which attracts death by firing squad, and also sentenced to life in jail for criminal conspiracy and attempt to commit murder.
Cpl. David Luhbut, Cpl. Muhammed Sani, Pte. Iseh Ubong, Pte. Sabastine Gwaba and Pte. Inama Samuel were set free by the court.
History of case
The soldiers had in May revolted, opening fire at a car carrying the General Officer commanding of the army’s 7 Division in Maiduguri, Borno State.
Major-Gen. Mohammed was targeted by the soldiers who blamed him for the deaths of their colleagues.
The attack in Maimalari cantonment, on May 14, humiliated the Nigerian military at a time the force came under international spotlight over the abduction of nearly 300 school girls in Chibok by the extremist Boko Haram sect.
Official said at the time that the rebellious soldiers were infuriated over the ambushing and killing of their colleagues by Boko Haram – an attack the soldiers blamed their superiors for.
In details seen by PREMIUM TIMES, which first reported the court-martial, the soldiers were charged for attempted murder and mutiny.
The internal memo, signed by the Commander, Army Headquarter Garrison, B.T. Ndiomu, had ordered the constitution of a General Court Martial, to be presided by C.C Okonkwo, a Brigadier General.
Mr. Ndiomu, also a Brigadier General, ordered that the court martial be assembled at the garrison’s conference hall on June 26.
The military court was made up of seven members, two waiting members, a judge advocate and two prosecuting officers.
Others members include: a liaison officer, a contact officer, two officers authorized to sign any amendment convening officer and eight other soldiers who form a court secretariat.
The army accused the soldiers of attempting to kill the GOC, Mr. Mohammed.
The soldiers had blamed the general for the deaths of their colleagues killed in an ambush near Chibok.
Sources had told PREMIUM TIMES that the soldiers were ambushed while on a special operation in Kalabalge Local Government Area where locals on a Tuesday morning killed about 150 insurgents and arrested 10 others.
After the operation, during which some military equipment were recovered from the insurgents, the soldiers, who arrived the operation location at night, were asked to return to Maiduguri.
The soldiers reportedly pleaded to be allowed to return to Maiduguri the next morning, as the night trip would be too risky.
Their request was allegedly turned down and the troop had to drive to Maiduguri at night.
“Those commanding the troop declined their request to pass the night in one of the villages on the grounds that the top ranks at the headquarters of the 7 Division would not be pleased if they don’t go back to Maiduguri that night,” said a ranking soldier, who sought anonymity.
The 7 Division, recently formed, is located in Maiduguri, the capital of the troubled Borno State.
But halfway through their journey, they ran into a Boko Haram ambush and 12 of them got killed while some others were injured, sources said.
The military later claimed that only four soldiers died in the ambush, before it increased the figure to six.
The survivors, in what seemed a vengeance mission, launched an attack on their commander, Mr. Mohammed, when they eventually arrived in Maiduguri.
Mr. Mohammed, a Major General, was immediately redeployed to another command which the military did not reveal.
In its version of the attack on the GOC, the military claimed the soldiers did not shoot at their commander, but merely fired into the air.
“The fact of the matter is that troops on patrol around Chibok were ambushed by insurgents yesterday. Troops engaged the insurgents in a fierce combat and extricated themselves from the ambush killing several insurgents.
“Four soldiers however lost their lives during the ambush.
“On evacuation of the remains of the fallen troops, the General Officer Commanding addressed the troops who registered their anger about the incident by firing into the air,” the military spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, had said in a statement.
But in the charge sheet signed by Mr. Ndiomu, the army said the soldiers’ bullet only missed General Mohammed by a hair’s breadth, as at least one bullet struck the rear right door of his Sports Utility Vehicle, where the general sat.
“In that you on or about 14 May 14 at7 DMSH Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri without justification attempted to kill Maj. Gen. A Mohammed (N/7915), the GOC 7 div( as he then was) by firing shots on his official vehicle (Command Jeep) which hit the right door where he sat,” the charge reads.
After the attack in Maiduguri, the Nigerian Army arrested the soldiers and instituted a military board of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding their conduct.
The army charged 11 of the 18 soldiers with criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny among others.
The soldiers face a six-count charge of committing mutiny, criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny, attempted murder, disobedience to particular orders, insubordinate behaviour contrary to and punishable under the law, and false accusation.
The charge sheet read that the soldiers inspired other military personnel of the 101 battalion to commit mutiny and also accused E. Azenda, a Lieutenant colonel, who is the Second in Command of the 101 battalion, of conspiring with other officers to kill the soldiers.
One of the charges read “that you between 13 and 14 May 2014 at Maimalari cantonment in Maiduguri fired sporadically with the intent to incite other personnel of 101 battalion against the authority of 7 Division.”
Punishment for the offences under the Armed Forces Act include; death, imprisonment, dismissal with ignominy from the Armed Forces, a fine of a sum not exceeding the equivalent of three months’ pay among others.
The accused soldiers were allowed defence counsel of their choice.
Below are the List of charges against the soldiers
Statement of Offence: Criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny triable by court martial by virtue of Section 114 of AFA and punishable under Section 97(1) of the penal code CAP P89, laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Particulars of offence: In that you on or about 14 May14 at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri conspired to incite other personnel of 101 Bn to commit mutiny.
Statement of Offence: Mutiny punishable under Section 52(1) (b) of AFA CAP A20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Particulars of Offence: In that you between 13 and 14 May 14 at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri fired sporadically with intent to incite other personnel of 101 Bn against the authority of 7 Div.
Statement of offence: Attempt to commit offences (murder) contrary to Section 95 and punishable under Section 106 of AFA CAP A20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Particulars of Offence: In that you on or about 14 May 14 at7 DMSH Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri without justification attempted to kill Maj. Gen. A Mohammed (N/7915), the GOC 7 div( as he then was) by firing shots on his official vehicle (Command Jeep) which hit the right door where he sat.
Statement of offence: Disobedience to particular orders punishable under Section 56(1) of AFA CAP A20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Particulars of Offence: In that you on or about 14 May 14 at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri wilfully disobeyed an order by LT Col E Azenda (N/10517), 2i/c 101 Bn to allow the corpses of 101 Bn personnel killed in action on 13 May 14 to be moved to UMTH mortuary by preventing the movement insisting on the arrival of the GOC before such movement could take place.
Statement of Offence: Insubordinate behaviour contrary to and punishable under Section 54 (1) (b) of AFA CAP A20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Particulars of Offence: In that you on or about 14 May 14 at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri uttered abusive language “that officers are cowards” with threat to shoot the officers if they did not leave the premises.
Statement of Offence: False accusation contrary to and punishable under Section 94 (a) of AFA CAP A20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Particulars of Offence: In that you on or about 14 May 14 at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri accused Lt Col E Azenda (N/10517), 2i/c of 101 Bn of conspiring with other officers to kill 101 Bn soldiers.
Names of the accused soldiers, their ranks and service numbers:
96NA/ 42/6235 Cpl Jasper Braidolor
96NA/ 43/ 10277 Cpl David Musa
05NA/ 57/ 3451 LCpl Friday Onun
09NA/ 64/ 4905 LCpl Yusuf Shuaibu
09NA/ 62/ 1648 LCpl Igono Emmanuel
09NA/ 64/ 4214 Pte Andrew Ngbede
10NA/ 65/ 8344 Pte Nurudeen Ahmed
10NA/ 65/ 7084 Pte Ifeanyi Alukhagbe
13NA/ 69/ 2898 Pte Alao Samuel
13NA/ 69/ 2907 Pte Amadi Chukwudi
13NA/ 69/ 2898 Pte Allan Linus
93NA/ 36/ 1542 Cpl David Luhbut
97NA/ 45/ 7423 Cpl Muhammed Sani
03NA/ 53/ 816 Lcpl Stephen Clement
09NA/ 62/ 1648 Inama Samuel
09NA/ 64/ 5858 Iseh Ubong
10NA/ 65/ 6912 Ichocho Jeremiah
10NA/ 65/ 7343 Sabastine Gwaba