By Our Correspondent
A military court-martial sitting in Akure, Ondo State has sentenced 27 soldiers to life imprisonment on one count charge of mutiny, subject to the confirmation by the superior authorities.
The court-martial headed by Brig-Gen. Ishaya Bauka discharged acquitted Corporal Bala Aliyu out of 28 former United Nations peacekeepers who served in Liberia, but were arrested and detained after a public protest over the payment of their peacekeeping entitlements.
Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana was one of the attorneys representing the accused soldiers and he was present at the proceedings, which was held under tight security.
Falana while describing the judgement as a charade, said the soldiers would appeal the ruling. He said, ” the conduct of the accused persons cannot be classified as mutiny. By virtue of Section (52) (3) of the Armed Forces Act, a mere protest by soldiers is not a mutiny because ingredients of the offence of mutiny have been judicially defined in the case of CPL Segun Oladele and 22 Others versus Nigerian Army (2004)”
Those convicted include three female soldiers, Yetunde Olanihun, Mary Idoko and Esther Nkawor, and others who have been in detention since July 2008.
In a judgment that was read for more than five hours, the president of the court martial said that the prosecution team, led by Lt.-Col. Sampson Nurseman, proved beyond reasonable doubt that the 27 soldiers, who served in the United Nations Mission in Liberia, were guilty of a one count charge of mutiny levelled against them.
The 27 soldiers jailed for life were convicted for violating Section 12 subsection 2 of the Armed Forces Act of 2004. The convicts include Sergeant Oliver Akwara, Corporals Princewill Onwunari, Corporals Abass Saliu and Paul Maikudi.
Others are Lance Corporals Umar Abdukadir, Musa Salisu, Paschal Steven, Ibrahim Yusuf Loveday Nnadi, Yomi Ibukun, Bello Zaharadeen, Okani Pope, Wanogho Shadrack, Lawal Abubakar, Innocent Egbuna and John Felix.
The rest are Kabiru Mohammed, Chukwudi Onwukanjo, Samuel Ogbe, Jonathan Komo, Adaraloye Olalekan, Salisu Ibrahim, Anthogah Jonathan and Kelechi Anukan.
All the soldiers served under Lt. Col.-Godwin Umelo in NIBATT 15 at the United Nations Missions in Liberia. Lt. Col. Paul Baba and other paying officers were charged with cheating, stealing and negligence of duty before the same court martial. They were punished by demotion for wrongly payment of the allowances of the convicted soldiers to members of NIBATT 14, including the commanding officer who were drawn from the 72 Para-Battalion, Makurdi, Benue State.