Original Post Date: 2009-05-19 Time: 03:00:14 Posted By: Jan
By Abdulwahab Abdulah
TWENTY seven soldiers who were recently convicted to life imprisonment over the charges of mutiny by a Court Martial in Akure, Ondo State have petitioned the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), urging him and the concerned authority to set aside the sentenced passed on them and pay their outstanding allowances.In a letter to the Army boss through their counsel, Mr Femi Falana dated May 15, 2009, the 27 convicted soldiers insisted that they were wrongfully arraigned and sentenced by the Court Martial for the said offence. They argued that assuming they had demonstrated over their withheld allowances, it should not have been proper for the court martial to arraigned them for the offence of mutiny, but offences of insubordinate behaviour contrary to Section 54 or 56 of the Armed Forces Act, which attracted maximum of two years jail term.
The soldiers also contended that apart from demonstrating against their withheld allowances, which is recognized by the constitution, they have never before the time committed any offences against constituted authority.
To this end, they prayed the Army chief and the Federal Government to intervene and set aside their conviction and order the immediate payment of the shortfall in their operation allowances forth-with.
The letter stated: “It is crystal clear that the convicts were illegally charged with mutiny under Section 52(2) of the Armed Forces Act. As the prosecution did not prove that the convicts disobeyed a military act or involved themselves in armed rebellion, they ought not to have been convicted as charged. Being first offenders the convicts ought not to have been sentenced to life imprisonment having regard to the facts and circumstances of this case.”
“We have also shown that even if the convicts had conducted themselves in a violent manner and refused to obey the Commanding Officer while addressing them on the shortfall of the operation allowances they ought to have been charged with insubordinate behaviour or disobedience of a particular order contrary to Section 54 or 56 of the Armed Forces Act. Having not been properly charged as required by the law the findings and sentence of the Court Martial ought to be set aside without any further ado.
“In the course of the trial it was also shown that the operation allowances belonging to soldiers who had participated in peace keeping operations organized by the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had been diverted and stolen on three different occasions in the recent past. Curiously, the Court Martial which tried and convicted the four military officers who diverted and stole over US$1 million belonging to the convicts in this case did not appreciate the full implication of such iniquitous conduct. Hence they were given a pat on the back as they were merely sentenced to a reduction in rank whereas the convicts who were victims of the fraud were sentenced to life imprisonment and dismissed from the Army.”
They argued that since their act fell withing the ambit of the law, they should be released and paid their allowances.