For the 66 soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny and other offences in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East, the good news is that they will no longer face the firing squad.
The Army authorities announced, yesterday, that their death sentences had been commuted to terms of 10 years imprisonment.
“The death sentences by firing squad, passed on 66 soldiers in January and March, 2015, by separate General Court Martials (GCMs), have been commuted to 10 years imprisonment each”, the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Usman Sani, said yesterday.
After the sentencing of 12 soldiers to death for shooting at a vehicle conveying the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, Borno State, Major-General Ahmed Mohammed, the Army authorities, on October 2, 2014, at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) Garrison, inaugurated another nine-man GCM to try about 100 soldiers.
The soldiers were charged with offences ranging from mutiny to assault, misconduct and tampering with military property.
Of the lot, 77 were accused of committing mutiny, punishable by death.
The charge said the soldiers attached to the 7 Division, conspired to commit mutiny, saying they refused to join 111 Special Forces Battalion, led by Colonel E.A. Aladeniyi, to the Maimalari Barracks for an operation (against Boko Haram fighters).
The mutinous soldiers had blamed the GOC and other officers for the death of four of their colleagues allegedly ambushed while on a special operation against Boko Haram in Kalabalge LGA, near Chibok, Borno State; where over 200 school girls were abducted by terrorists in April, last year.
One of the CGMs was headed by Brigadier General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo.
The Army spokesperson, Sani, in a statement announcing the reversal of the death sentences handed to the 66 soldiers, yesterday, to 10 years imprisonment, said: “It will be recalled that 71 soldiers were arraigned on several charges in joint trials. The soldiers were arraigned on several count charges that included Criminal Conspiracy, Conspiracy to commit mutiny and Mutiny.
“Others were Attempt to Commit an Offence (Murder), Disobedience to Particular Orders, Insubordinate Behaviour and False Accusation, amongst others.
“They (soldiers) were tried, discharged on some charges but found guilty and convicted on other charges which included mutiny.
“Out of the number, 66 were found guilty on some of the charges and sentenced to death, while 5 were discharged and acquitted and one was given 28 days Imprisonment with Hard Labour (IHL).
“However, following series of petitions, the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, ordered a legal review of the cases. 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 jail terms. The sentences are to run concurrently.
“The cases of other soldiers are being reviewed and will be made public once the appropriate reviews are completed.”
The reprieve for the convicted soldiers, yesterday, elicited jubilation from their families.
Family members of some of the convicts, who spoke newsmen on phone, were full of praises for the Army authorities and the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), but would have preferred that their kinsmen were outrightly pardoned and possibly reabsorbed into the military.
Meanwhile, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to use his powers of prerogative order of mercy to pardon and reinstate the soldiers convicted over the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in the North East zone of the country.
The Nigerian Army had commuted the death sentences passed on 66 soldiers by separate court martial to 10 years imprisonment.
A statement by the Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Sani Usman, a colonel, said 71 soldiers were arraigned on several charges in joint trials in January and March.
The soldiers were arraigned on several count charges that include Criminal Conspiracy, Conspiracy to commit mutiny, Mutiny, Attempt to Commit an Offence (Murder), Disobedience to Particular Orders, Insubordinate Behaviour and False Accusation, amongst others.
While thanking the army authorities for squashing the death sentences, the CNPP, in a statement by its spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu, said soldiers convicted over the fight against insurgents had been vindicated by the revelation from ongoing trial of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and others and should be reinstated.
“In addition to the review of some of the sentences by the Chief of Army Staff, we still appeal to Mr President and Commander-in-Chief to as a matter of urgent national importance to pardon and reinstate the mutinied soldiers,” it said.
“Our appeal is anchored on the premise that they were starved of equipment as evidenced by their pleadings in the court martial that they were ill-equipped. Indeed the only allegation charge proved against them at the trial was that they had the temerity to ask for equipment to combat the insurgency.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, the reasons for the sordid scenario of dearth of equipment which led to the mutiny are clearly gazetted by the unpatriotic, callous, unconscionable and utter greed of Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), erstwhile National Security Adviser and his clan.
The group said the Federal Government should urgently commence the trial of Mr. Dasuki and others for criminal conspiracy, murder and subversion of the Nigeria State, for allegedly “engaging in crass primitive accumulation and unpatriotic diversion of arms fund to private pockets”.
It argued that their trial should not only be done on the basis of alleged money laundering and other quasi charges, but also treason.
It said, “They declared state of emergency serially yet paid deaf ears to the wanton killing of soldiers and the Maiduguri Barack protest march of the wives of soldiers.
“A protest some pundits posit could have been a wakeup call to the kleptomaniacs. The soldiers’ wives protest is rated to be the first and only one in the history of the Nigeria Army.”
The CNPP said it recalled that after a meeting with former President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa sometime ago, Governor Ibrahim Shettima of Borno State shouted at the top of his voice that Boko Haram was better equipped and better motivated more than the Nigeria Army, but that the governor “was called all sorts of unprintable names by the cash and carry clique”.
It added, “Similarly, the then Chief of Defense Staff, Air Marshal Alex Barde (rtd), also testified like Pontus Pilate to the truism that the soldiers were ill-equipped and ill-motivated. Though medicine after death from a Defence Overall Boss who looked the other way, while the Bazaar was going on.
“In spite of our collective amnesia, we cannot forget easily how the erstwhile Jonathan’s regime botched the covert negotiations of Dr Steve Davies with Boko Haram, and chased him away. He was an innocent Australian clergy who took the risk and volunteered to negotiate with Boko Haram.
“Your Excellency, for God’s sake, how else or better evidence can we assemble to convince that the military mutineers were vindicated given the avalanche of evidence on the ground?”
Shell Donates Subsea Training Facilities To UNIPORT
The Nigeria deep-water arm of global energy giant, Shell, has donated multimillion naira laboratory equipment and software packages to the Offshore Technology Institute of the University of Port Harcourt as part of the company’s Nigerian content human capital development programme delivered in collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Speaking at a ceremony to hand over the facilities to the university, last Thursday, Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo), Mrs. Elohor Aiboni, said, “The donations are aimed at strengthening advanced practical teaching and research in subsea engineering to give the students the required skills and competences for entry level jobs in the oil and gas industry”.
The facilities, valued at over $700,000, are in alignment with the Human Capacity Development Guideline of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
Aiboni, represented by SNEPCo’s Social Investment Manager, Dr. Gloria Udoh, expressed optimism that with the level of investment by NNPC and SNEPCo in deep-water training via the establishment centres of excellence and donation of cutting-edge information and communication technology centres, among others, Nigerian oil and gas industry would surpass its local content aspiration earlier than projected.
“This investment anchored on the maintenance of subsea infrastructure on Nigeria’s pioneer deep offshore field, Bonga, is expected to develop and upskill the cognitive and technical abilities of students who pass through the Offshore Technology Institute for the ultimate benefit of our industry and of our country,” Aiboni added.
With the new laboratory and software packages, according to Aiboni, the Offshore Technology Institute is positioned to deliver effective training in engineering design; construction and installation of offshore and subsea structures; computer simulations; civil and construction tests; 3D printing/engravement capability; Measurement/Metering Technology and Robotics; Alternative Energy Technologies; and Data Acquisition Learning System.
In his remarks, Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Onwunari Georgewill, commended NNPC and SNEPCo with its co-venture partners for their goodwill to the university and particularly to OTI, and canvassed more areas of collaboration between the university and its industry partners.
Georgewell said, “This project’s completion is timely because it latches on to the university’s leadership philosophy, which focuses on advancing education through an integrated learning environment to produce industry-ready university graduates and workforce.
“The current administration of the university places a lot of emphasis on university and industry collaboration and partnership. This donation will therefore enhance the achievement of the postgraduate degree-awarding Offshore Technological Institute in the practical context.”
Also speaking, Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Mr. Simbi Wabote, described the human capital initiatives of SNEPCo as commendable.
Wabote added, “I commend your remarkable and consistent collaboration and partnership with the NCDMB towards the development of in-country capacities and capabilities.”
Represented by NCDMB General Manager, Corporate Service and Logistics, Mr Halilu Abdulmalik, Wabote said, “Your Nigerian content initiatives are consistent with the objectives and aspirations of NCDMB’s 10-year strategic roadmap, and we hope that necessary adjustments will be made to the curriculum to ensure optimal utilization by students in the university community.”
Obasanjo, Osinbajo, Wike, Others Bag CAN Awards
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and Mummy Esther Ajayi, were among prominent Nigerians who received awards at the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Sapphire awards in Abuja, last weekend.
Others, including Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, and Chief Arthur Eze, also received awards at the event; while the kidnapped Dapchi school, Leah Sharibu, won in the Young Christian Achiever award category.
Former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, and Goodluck Jonathan, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustafa, and some Christian governors, serving and past National Assembly members bagged awards.
The awards were part of activities for CAN’s 45th Anniversary Sapphire Celebration Dinner and Award Night.
Earlier in his welcome address, CAN National President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, had said that the gathering was to celebrate 45 years of the church in Nigeria.
He said that Governance Category awards were for Christians in politics who had shown excellent and remarkable services.
“These include past presidents, serving governors and senators in our assessment that deserve such award.
“An award ceremony is applause of vision, personal discipline and determination; it is an event like this that makes people feel that their works are valued.
“The award is a catalyst that is expected to reinforce the awardees to serve humanity more and more,’’ he said.
The CAN president said it was heart breaking that majority of those in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps were Christians who were displaced by religious fanatics, bandits and gunmen in their territories.
He solicited the awardees’ financial support in fulfilling some of CAN’s obligations to fellow Christians and bringing to fruition the association’s projects.
Obasanjo, who was represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, was the special guest of honour at the awards.
Obasanjo said that the award was significant in that it would encourage other citizens to serve humanity, adding “I will continue to do the best I can to uphold the principles of justice, love, equity, mutual respect, industry and the fear of God which epitomise the church of Christ until there’s no breath left in me.”
While showing appreciation to CAN on behalf of all the award recipients, VP Osinbajo said Nigerians needed to be more tolerant of other people’s views.
The vice president dedicated the award to those who, daily in different locations, distant and near, propagated the message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, sometimes in difficult and life-threatening situations.
He said that the awardees were not necessarily the most deserving of Christians to be given any recognition but by the special grace of God which placed them in the high capacity they served.
He said, “As we have seen in the past few years, there’s a growing ethnic and religious chauvinism, and almost intemperate, vehement and violent dismissal of the views of people of other persuasions and faith without adequate consideration.
“At the same time, there is also the rise of cultural and identity politics. The answer to hate and intolerance and conflicts is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must believe enough in it, to live it out as our article of faith.
“The gospel commands consideration of the views of others, treating them we would wish to be treated. Our words must be of grace, seasoned with salt.
“We must remain constant and relentless advocates of freedom of worship, respect for human rights, fairness, justice, rule of law because they are fundamental to peace and security. We cannot talk of peace and security without fairness and justice, and compliance with the rule of law.
“We are in the advantageous position that our contribution will be more easily noticed.
“So, this award is dedicated to the men who, daily in different locations, distant and near propagate this message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in sometimes even difficult and life-threatening situations.
“And to many who have suffered deprivations, the families of those who have lost their lives by reason of their belief.
“And we are deeply grateful to the Almighty God for the opportunity and enablement to serve in the positions to which we have been referred.
“I bring, also, the very warm felicitations of the President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria on the 45th anniversary of the birth of this foremost association of Nigerian Christians.
“CAN was formed to, among other objectives, nurture the unity of the church in Nigeria and to work with the leaders of other faith and persuasions to build bridges and forge understanding, peace and unity among the various people and faith in our nation.
“CAN has not only been continually faithful to its founding vision, it has become a veritable force for peace, for unity and for social justice.
“Pursuant to the gospel, CAN has consistently spoken up on behalf of the least of those in our society,’’ he said.
He said that the current and past leaderships of CAN had acted in full realiasation and recognition of their roles as pivotal stakeholders alongside the government and private sector in nation building.
Earlier, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who noted the dire financial condition of the umbrella Christian organisation in the country, advised clerics to tone down their criticism of those in authority.
He said, “I just want to caution some Christian pastors concerning the way we use our pulpit and the kind of fire of insults and abuses that comes from there. When you abuse those who will give you money where will you get the money.
“The Bible says to pray for those in authority. You need to draw your leaders close. When you draw us closer and tell us what your problems are, it will energise us to help. Money will flow more than you need.”
Also, Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who sheltered no fewer than 200 Christians in Barkin Ladi, Plateau, during an attack, was presented with the Special Recognition award.
The late Obadiah Mailafia, former CBN Deputy Governor, was given a post-humous award of Spokesperson for Oppressed alongside Matthew Kukah, Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto and Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana.
Awards were also given to best candidates in the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and Senior School Certificate Examination.
Highlight of the event was the cutting of the anniversary cake.
Bandits Free 10 More Kaduna Baptist Students, Keep 11
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), yesterday, confirmed that 10 more students of Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna State have been released.
The Vice President of CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja) and its Chairman in Kaduna State, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, said this in a short WhatsApp message to newsmen.
He said, “Ten more students of Baptist High School were released this afternoon. We have 11 now with bandits.
“We are thanking all Nigerians for their prayers and support.
“We are trusting God that the rest will be released very soon. All have been reunited with their parents.”
Earlier, 10 students of Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna were released on Saturday, September 18, after spending 74 days captivity of terrorists, with 22 others still being held.
Hayab had said, “10 students were released this (Saturday) evening and have reunited with their parents. We are now hoping for the remaining 21 who are still with the bandits.”
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