Saturday, December 19, 2015 2:40 pm
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, has directed that death sentences by firing squad passed on 66 soldiers in January and March 2015 by separate court martial be commuted to 10 years imprisonment each.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday by acting Army Spokesman, Col. Sani Usman, General Buratai said the sentences would run concurrently.
The statement said that the cases of soldiers facing similar disciplinary actions were also being reviewed by the authorities concerned.
The statement said Buratai directed the review of the sentences following petitions received from and on behalf of the accused soldiers.
“Following series of petitions, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, ordered for a legal review of the cases and the directive was carried out to examine the merit of each case.
“It was on the basis of the review and recommendations that the Chief of Army Staff commuted the death sentences of the 66 soldiers to 10 years imprisonment which are to run concurrently.
“The cases of other soldiers are being reviewed and will be made public once the appropriate reviews are completed,’’ the statement quoted Usman as saying.
The 71 soldiers were arraigned on several charges in joint trials by Nigerian Army earlier in the year. They were accused of criminal conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mutiny.
The other charges were attempt to commit an offence (murder), disobedience to particular orders, insubordinate behaviour and false accusation, among others.
Out of the number, 66 were found guilty on some of the count charges and sentenced to death while five were discharged and acquitted.
The soldiers were accused of mutiny after dozens of fellow soldiers died in a Boko Haram ambush, when they were ordered against their will to drive down a dangerous road at night.
The military is also reviewing the cases of other soldiers, including 579 put on secret trial in May, the statement said.
It did not say if the reviews include Brig. Gen. Enitan Ransome Kuti — a nephew of Afrobeat music legend Fela Ransome-Kuti — who was dismissed from the army in October and sentenced to six months’ jail for losing a major battle in which Boko Haram Islamic extremists killed hundreds of civilians.
The Nigerian Army has, earlier in the year reinstated hundreds of soldiers dismissed from service and redeployed them to operations in parts of the country.