Army court-martials 20 soldiers over illicit arms sales, rights abuses

The Nigerian Army, on Wednesday, inaugurated a General Court Martial (GCM) to try four officers and 16 soldiers found wanting within the Operation Lafiya Dole theater command in Maiduguri, Borno State

Brigadier-General Victor Ezugwu, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, inaugurated the GCM, at a ceremony in Maiduguri.

General Ezugwu said that the action followed an order from the Nigerian Army Headquarters in Abuja.

“Following the directives from Army Headquarters that a standing GCM be set up for the Operation Lafiya Dole to try offence committed by personnel within the theater of operation.

“I issued a convening order for the GCM on August 5, and members were directed to assemble today for formal inauguration.

“As you are aware, discipline is the bedrock of the military profession and to have a disciplined body of officers and men, there must be justice, because it is when there is justice that discipline can be achieved,” he said.

General Ezugwu said that four officers and 16 soldiers would face trial at the GCM.

“Justice implies that infractions of the law must be promptly reported, investigated and the accused persons prosecuted within a reasonable time through the laid down rules regulations and procedures.

“The GCM is, therefore, convened to try a total of 4 officers and 16 other ranks of the Nigerian Army, who have committed various offences within the theater,” he said.

Ezugwu also said that the aim of a GCM was to ensure quick dispensation of justice to the accused persons.

“It must be stated at this juncture that one of the aims of a court martial is to achieve timely and quick dispensation of justice within the framework provided in relation to statue books.

“Therefore, it is important that both the prosecutors and the accused persons or their counsels are mindful of this fact and strive to shun all forms of antics such as request for frivolous adjournments which could lead to unnecessary delays in the trials processes.

“It is often said in the legal parlance that justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.

“And ensure that your opinions and decisions on all the cases brought before you is not in any way beclouded with bias, external pressure by extraneous factors.

“The outcome of the GCM must, therefore, be based on careful appreciation of the whole facts of each and evidence placed before you in the course of trial of these accused persons.

“Finally, you are to ensure that the judgment you pass on the accused persons will stand the test of appellate court, public opinion and above all that of the almighty creator.

The president of the GCM, Brigadier.-General Segun Adeniyi, also addressed the court shortly after taking oath of administration with a promise to be fair and just to the accused in the conduct of the trial.

“For the accused, be assured that you are all presumed innocent until this honourable court finds otherwise. I wish to further state that your rights to fair hearing and other fundamental human rights will be adhered to throughout this trial.”