The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) on Wednesday called on Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, to intervene and ensure justice in the case of the 38 senior army officers “wrongly and unlawfully” dismissed in 2016.
Okechukwu Nwanguma, the National coordinator of NOPRIN, said at a press conference in Lagos that the Army Council has no powers to punish any officer.
“The purported punishment of the Army 38 by way of compulsory retirement without giving any of them the opportunity to defend themselves against any allegation is against the principles of natural justice and fair hearing,” Mr Nwanguma said.
He said the pattern of abuse meted on the Army 38 – as the dismissed officers have come to be known – by the military leadership showed a deliberate witch hunt of selected officers based on tribal affiliations and pedigree.
Majority of the 38 officers dismissed in June 2016 were sent away without recourse to the rules of disengagement in the Nigerian military, a PREMIUM TIMES report at the time showed.
But Sani Usman, the army spokesperson at the time, defended the military’s action saying the affected officers were sent packing in relation to arms procurement fraud and professional misconduct during the 2015 elections. The government, however, did not raise that claim when the affected officers went to court.
Despite receiving a petition written by some of the dismissed officers since September 2016, Mr Buhari has failed to take any action on the matter.
Late last year, the dismissed soldiers headed to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court in search of justice.
At the press conference in Lagos on Wednesday, Abdul Muhammed, who is a lawyer to the dismissed soldiers, described the army’s claims that the officers were guilty of misconduct as untrue.
Mr Muhammed said none or the 38 officers was charged, tried by a court, or found guilty of any offence in line with the Armed forces extant rules and regulations.
“18 of these senior officers that were dismissed did not at any time appear before any of the two panels set up or was there any inquiry or investigation,” he added.
He further said each of the officers had given, at least, 25 years of service to the nation with years of training.
According to him, out of the 38 affected officers, 24 were from the south with seven from Rivers State.
Mr Muhammed said the officers were not responsible for the offences they were accused of, as many of them were not in the country during the 2015 elections.
“Clearly, someone in the leadership of the military was involved in the victimisation of innocent senior officers in the Nigerian Army and it’s been revealed that the names of innocent officers were substituted in place of the guilty ones in a case of gross corruption and abuse of office.
“With the death of one the officers within the first year of denial of justice, the 38 senior Army Officers are crying for justice,” he added.
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