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Can Soldiers Disobey Unlawful Orders In Nigeria?

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Many lay persons believe that soldiers by the very nature of the services they render are expected to obey every superior order given to them whether lawful or unlawful. This school of thought erroneously believes that soldiers do not have the luxury of time to query the orders given to them by their superiors especially during military operations.
This, indeed, is predicated on the fact that most times, they have to act with dispatch. There is obviously no time to make distinctions between what is legal and unlawful.
However, the truth of the matter is that soldiers are obligated to obey all lawful orders and to disobey unlawful ones.
Nigerian Army Act (1960) provides that military personnel have the duty to obey lawful orders.
Nigerian Armed Forces Act (1993) as amended in 1994 states thus, “A person subject to service law under the act, who in such manners as to show willful defiance of authority disobeys a lawful command given or sent to him by whatever means is guilty of an offence under this sub-section and liable, on conviction by a court martial to imprisonment for a term of not exceeding two years or any less punishment provided by the Act.
However, the obligation to obey the orders of their superiors does not include orders that are palpably illegal or manifestly unjust.
Interestingly, every military officer swears oaths upon commissioning. The Oath is not to obey all orders, it is to “preserve” “protect” and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
When soldiers obey palpably illegal orders, they become personally liable for their actions and would be expected to face court martial for the wrongdoing.
In developed countries, where the rule of law is strictly adhered to, it is easy to bring erring military personnel to book. But in Nigeria, it is not easy to do so.
Those who commit (heinous) crimes during military operations are liable to face war crime charges at the end of such operations or wars.
Nonetheless, apart from the punishment of war crimes, many military personnel pander to their consciences when it comes to committing war crimes by often avoiding committing such crimes.
Pathetically, some so called superior orders are often repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. The law of war prescribes rules on which wars are fought and any military personnel who violates the law of war are liable to face war crime charges.
Nobody really knows how far developing countries like Nigeria are able to obey the law of war.
However, many military personnel in Nigeria who are adherents to the rule of law find it difficult to violate the law of war in spite of what is usually termed superior orders.
A former Nigerian soldier, Mr. Onofua Michael, whose last unit in the service was Guard Brigade Ordinance, Fred Park, Abuja is a case in point.
Michael was allegedly asked by his superior to kill innocent and defenceless civilians but he disobeyed the order because it was palpably illegal.
According to an eyewitness that spoke with The Tide under the cloak of anonymity on Monday, “the refusal of Michael to obey the so called superior orders attracted the ire of the military and became his undoing.
The witness alleged that Michael was arrested and detained and had to face a court martial and sentenced.
He, however, did not state what the sentence was but noted that before the execution of sentence, Michael managed to escape and fled the country.
The eyewitness, who is also a solider did not say exactly where his former colleague was seeking asylum.
He remarked that before his escape, Michael had spent one year in detention and explained that there was a likelihood that he would not like to return to the country to face his sentence.
He pointed out that if the soldier did not flee the country, he would have served out the sentence and summarily executed.
Mr Michael Onofua who served in the Nigerian Army until 2021 hails from Esan Central Local Government Area of Edo State.
He was declared wanted in November, 2021 after he had fled the shores of Nigeria.
Michael exemplifies the plight of many Nigerian soldiers who face the dilemma of either obeying an unlawful order or face court martial for disobedience.
Ideally, it is the reverse that should have been the case, a soldier faces court martial for committing war crimes but not for refusing to obey unlawful orders.
Nonetheless, the Nigerian Army which was once revered for its diligence at peace keeping globally is facing ebbing morals. There is no secret that many soldiers are no longer committed in the work with the Army.
Only recently, a soldier who defected to the camp of the Boko Haram insurgents killed himself before justice could be served on him. Indeed, many soldiers are betraying their colleagues and disclosing vital information to the enemies. That is why the war against terrorism and banditry is unending.
There must be a deliberate effort on the part of the heads of the Nigerian military to ensure rectitude so that soldiering in the country will bounce back.

By: Chidi Enyie

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Crime/Justice

RSU Suspends Professor Over Rape

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Rivers State University says it has suspended Prof. David N. Ogbonna, former Head of Department of Microbiology Department for alleged sexual offence.
The suspension is coming on the heels of sexual offences against a female student of his faculty, even as a Port Harcourt Chief Magisterate Court has admitted him to bail on the allegation.
He is currently before a Port Harcourt Magistrate Court presided over by Chief Magistrate, Menenen Poromon after being accused by a 20-year-old female student of the department.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Police command yesterday arraigned Professor David Ogbonna, of Rivers State University on allegations of unlawful and indecent sexual assault on a female student of the faculty.
Professor David Ogbonna was arraigned before Chief Magistrate Menenen..F.Poromon of Chief Magistrate Court 13.
The charge sheet read that: You Professor David Ogbonna on 16th day of May, 2022 at Rivers State University campus, Oruwokwo in Obio/Akpor Magisterial district but triable in Port Harcourt Magisterial district did unlawfully and indecently assault a ‘f’ aged 20 years by inserting your penis into her vagina thereby committed an offence punishable under section 360 of the Criminal Code CAP 37 Vol.11 of laws of Rivers State,Nigeria 1999.
The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The lead defence lawyer, O.C.Higher King urged the court to grant the defendant bail on self recognizance considering his status in the society.
Emi Jim George, lead lawyer holding watching brief for International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Rivers State branch urged the court not to grant the accused bail in view of alleged threat to the life of the ‘ victim’.
The Chief Magistrate Poromon after listening to argument of both lawyers granted the accused bail in like sum of 2 million naira and that the surety must be residing in the magisterial district.
The case was subsequently adjourned to July 20, 2022.

By: Akujobi Amadi

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Crime/Justice

Rivers NSCDC Commandant Warns Against Illegal Oil Dealings

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The new commandant of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Rivers State Command, Commandant Michael Besong Ogar said there is much to do in the fight against illegal oil bunkering and illegal dealings in petroleum products in the State.
Ogar stated this while addressing management team, senior officers and personnel of the command on his first day of assumption duties in office as the commandant of the state command in Port Harcourt on Monday.
A statement signed by the command’s spokesperson, DSC OLUFEMI AYODELE said the commander vowed to fight illegal bunkering and personnel misconduct with vigor and professionalism.
“Let me first appreciate the Commandant General Dr Ahmed Abubakar Audi mni for giving me such a herculean task; the NSCDC is committed to safeguarding all critical national assets and infrastructure as well as protection of the lives and properties of the citizens. Assuredly, we will do our work without compromise and prejudice. There is a new Sheriff in town, those in the act of Vandalism and operators of illegal refineries are advised to relocate because Rivers State will no more accommodate them”
The statement further said the commander maintained that there was need for collaborations among security agencies and all stakeholders in order to combat the menace of insecurity in the Nation.
He noted that Intelligence was the bedrock of security hence, the Public must partner with the Corps by providing credible Intelligence and information that would assist the Command to nip in the bud all activities leading to environmental degradation and economic sabotage across the region.
The Command Helmsman however gave a stern warning against violation of fundamental human right of the citizens he said as security agency with statutory mandate the officers and men of the Command must exhibit high level of professionalism and respect for dignity of persons as his administration will not entertain any iota of brutality against civilians and accidental discharge.
“It is expedient for me to reiterate that accidental discharge is not in the NSCDC manual therefore all personel bearing arms must exercise necessary caution while discharging their duties; we will go after those endangering the health of the people through illegal bunkering activities because they are constituting sabotage to the nation’s economy and in due course there would be sanctity in Rivers State…said Ogar”.

By: Akujobi Amadi

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Crime/Justice

Police Parade 42 Suspects, Recover Fresh Human Parts In Oyo

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The Nigeria Police, Oyo State Command, on Tuesday paraded 42 suspects for offences ranging from murder, armed robbery, cultism, diversion of goods and recovered fresh human parts.
The new Commissioner of Police, Adebowale Williams, made this known while parading the suspects at the command’s headquarters, Eleyele, Ibadan.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other exhibits recovered from the suspects included arms and ammunition, vehicles, motorcycles, tricycles, 23 mobile phones, five cutlasses, Hemp, N120,000 cash, clothes, embalmed human flesh, two small knives, among others.
Williams said that the Department of State Services, Ibadan, on May 31 transferred to the command, a case of conspiracy and murder after arresting a 31-year-old suspect linked with the crime.
He said that the suspect allegedly engaged in ritual killing and selling of human parts, which were unlawfully found in his possession.
The police chief said that the principal suspect, upon interrogation, confessed to have murdered a 26-year-old man, Wale Adefabi, who visited him along with his girlfriend, one Layelawa Simbiat.
“The principal suspect further mentioned his two other accomplices in the murder of the deceased and sequel upon this information, detectives from Homicide Section swung into action and apprehended them.
“The other accomplices have also confessed to have murdered the deceased together with the principal suspect and that the deceased body parts wi shared among themselves for ritual,” he said.
Williams said that the flesh of the deceased was recovered from the principal suspect and was taken to the University College Hospital (UCH) for Forensic Analysis.
He further said that investigation was still ongoing to apprehend other culprits who were mentioned in the murder of the deceased.
Speaking with journalists, one of the suspects, who claimed to be an Alfa, said that they poisoned the tea served the deceased which killed him.
The suspect further said that they used knife to cut the deceased’s body parts and shared his parts for ritual purposes.
The commissioner of police said that all the paraded suspects would be charged to court after the conclusion of investigation.
He warned the criminal elements and perpetrators of evil vices to desist from their unwholesome and nefarious activities, saying that their criminal enterprise would not be allowed to flourish anywhere in the state.
Williams said the command would not hesitate to identify, isolate and bring to justice any person or group that attempts to threaten the sacred democratic order and peace in the state.

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