Review of Court Martial Sentences: Panel yet to submit report; decision yet to be taken by Army Council-Army HQ.
Authorities of the Nigerian Army said yesterday that the review panel put in place by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai to re-investigate and review death sentences, life imprisonment, and dismissals meted out to over 2000 officers and soldiers for their actions in the ongoing war on insurgency, was yet to conclude its sitting, neither has it made any recommendation to the Army Council.
Hence, no decision has been taken as to whether some soldiers have been pardoned, sentences reduced and no particular number of those to be sent for re-training have been arrived at.
A senior Army officer who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonimity noted that since the review panel headed by a GOC commenced sitting and review of the cases effectively on the 18th of this month, with a time frame of 10 days to complete its assignment, the panel should wind up by Friday August 28, 2015, after which its recommendation will be sent to the Chief of Army Staff.
The Chief of Army Staff on his part, after receiving and reviewing the recommendations of the panel, will then present the outcome to the Army Council headed by President Muhammadu Buhari for final action and approval.
The officer told Vanguard that it is therefore premature to see the speculations in the media about the review panel noting that it won’t change anything since the panel is working strictly in line with the mandate given to it.
“The truth of the matter is that the review panel is still sitting in Kaduna. Work is still ongoing. They are still in the process. They cannot be stampeded by some interests’ because the authorities decided in their own wisdom to carry out the review” the officer said.
It will be recalled that the Review Committee ordered by the Chief of Army staff to review some of the drastic measures of the Military High Command in the past dispensation regarding the several Court Martial judgments passed on soldiers over allegations of disobedience to lawful Military orders, conspiracy and connivance, desertion and indiscipline among others was inaugurated at the headquarters 1 division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna on Monday, 17th but commenced work on Tuesday 18th August.
Vanguard had reported that over 2000 officers and soldiers wrote to the authorities that their cases should be reviewed because they felt the circumstances under which they were accused of breaching military laws was not entirely their fault.
Authorities of the Army headquarters had earlier pointed out that the review action should not be misinterpreted to mean a recall of all officers indicted, dismissed and punished for desertion and indiscipline by the military courts.
But those with serious sentences for offences like death sentences, life imprisonment and dismissals and demotion in rank may be pardoned, reabsorbed and sent for re-training .
According to Vanguard sources, the action of the authorities is predicated on the fact that the weaponry needed to prosecute the war against Boko Haram were firstly, not available and where they were available, many of them malfunctioned due to the fact that they had expired or failed to perform in the heat of battle.
Aside equipment, it was generally a known fact that those countries Nigeria considered her friends, cultural and economic partners who the country ran to, for military hardware to help contain and checkmate the menace of Boko Haram terrorists, refused to sell arms to Nigeria to prosecute the war and this affected troop’s morale.
Moreover, sources told Vanguard that many of the soldiers who fell into the category of those court martialled, were green horns who had no experience of fighting a sophisticated battle like fighting terrorists who are not only unknown (asymmetric warfare), but were embedded with communities who had sympathies with the group to fought an unconventional war, different from what ‘our troops’ were trained to prosecute.
Former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh aptly captured this scenario recently when he said, “The activities of fifth columnists in the military and other security agencies who leaked operational plans and other sensitive military information to the terrorists, combined to make the fight against the insurgents particularly difficult”.
“The activities of these unpatriotic members of the military not only blunted the effectiveness of the fight, but also led to the needless deaths of numerous officers and men who unwittingly fell into ambushes prepared by terrorists who had advanced warning of the approach of such troops”.
“Permit me to also add here, that nation’s militaries are equipped and trained in peace time, for the conflicts they expect to confront in the future. Unfortunately, that has not been our experience as a nation. Over the years, the military was neglected and under-equipped to ensure the survival of certain regimes, while other regimes, based on advice from some foreign nations deliberately reduced the size of the military and underfunded it”.
Speaking on the review, Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman had earlier said, “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to correspondence making the rounds regarding an administrative procedure to review some recent disciplinary cases in the Nigerian Army”.
“For the avoidance of doubt it should be noted that the Nigerian Army is reviewing all recent disciplinary cases due to the wave of litigations and petitions by some aggrieved personnel”.
“The public should not misconstrue the recent directive to mean total recall of dismissed and deserter soldiers”.