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Experts raise concern as Army court-martials 501 personnel

No fewer than 501 Nigerian Army personnel have been court-martialled for indiscipline and other offences across the country in the last 32 months, The PUNCH reports.

The figure was based on an analysis of media reports between November 2019 and July 1, 2022.

Our correspondent observed that most of the personnel tried during the period under review were those serving in the terrorism-ravaged North East geopolitical zone.

For instance, in November 2019, 70 personnel found defaulting in the counter-insurgency operation in the North East were court-martialled.

In September of same year, a corporal was dismissed and sentenced to five years imprisonment by a military court martial after he was found guilty of defiling a 13-year-old girl in Bama Local Government Area of Borno State.

Also, in October 2021, 158 personnel were tried for offences bordering on alleged professional misconduct in the North East.

In the same month, three separate court martials were inaugurated to try 227 cases. 107 cases were recommended for summary trials while 120 cases have been concluded.

A Major-General was dismissed from service after a court martial found him guilty of corruption on June 16, 2022.

In January 2021, seven personnel were tried by the 7th Division General Court Martial sitting in Maiduguri.

Four soldiers were convicted for manslaughter, while another soldier was sentenced to death by firing squad for killing an officer among others.

29 personnel are currently being tried for various offences committed during the counter-terrorism operations in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and other states in the North East region.

Their trials commenced on June 24, 2022.

On July 1, 2022, six soldiers are currently facing a court-martial for indiscipline at the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army in Enugu.

A security expert, Timothy Avele, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the number of Army personnel tried within the period under review called for concern.

He said, “It calls for serious evaluation on the part of the President if I may suggest. This is beyond military authorities. I understand there’s a lot of grumbling among the rank and file due to various issues.

“If it’s not well handled now, it can demoralise the force, especially the frontline officers battling terrorists and deadly bandits in some parts of the country. It’s not a good sign at all. To put it mildly, the military authorities need to sit up urgently.”

Another security expert, Jackson Ojo, in a separate interview, said the alleged connivance of Army personnel with criminals was disturbing, urging the leadership of the service to do more to cleanse the system.

Ojo said, “There is a need for us to cleanse not just the Army but our security agencies. It is disturbing hearing news of them collaborating with criminals.

“The Army should pay more attention to this to enable us to win the war against insecurity in the country. I know apart from those who committed serious offences, there are some who were tried for complaining about fighting equipment, though against their extant rules, but we must address that issue.”

Efforts to Femi Falana (SAN), who has represented those on court martial on some occasions, to speak on why it appears impossible for cases to be decided in favour of soldiers on trial, did not yield positive result on Sunday.

His mobile telephone numbers indicated that they were switched off. He has yet to respond to messages sent to him.

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