A military Court Martial yesterday in Abuja arraigned 59 soldiers, consisting of senior officers and under ranks, for various offenses ranging from mutiny, disobedience to lawful orders and criminal conspiracy.
The accused are being tried for conspiring and engaging in acts detrimental to military rules of conduct, which the Army alleged took place in August.
Human right activist, Femi Falana (SAN) stood in as Defence Counsel for the 59 accused soldiers, while the Commanding Officer of 111 Special Forces Battalion Lieutenant-Colonel Timothy Opurum also appeared as a prosecution witness and testified before the military panel.
Their charge sheet alleged that the soldiers committed several acts of indiscipline bordering on mutiny, by bluntly shunning orders from the Commanding Officer of their unit, who is the Commander of 111 Special Forces Battalion, deployed to Borno state to participate in the counter-insurgency.
It (charge sheet) also said the counter-insurgency operation was planned as a major military operation designed to be launched by the forward operating base (FOB) to recapture towns in Borno state such as Yelwa, Bellabulini, and Damboa held by the Boko Haram insurgents.
Lead Prosecutor, Captain Joseph Nwosu said the offence is punishable under section 52(1) (a) of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Opurum said he took off for the operation with only four officers and 29 soldiers as “tasked’’ after majority of the 174 soldiers in the unit refused to join the operation, adding that the soldiers were “hesitant to partake in the operation’’ in spite of the assurances.
Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), who appeared for the accused, said 47 of the soldiers who initially refused later rejoined the forces for another operation.
60 soldiers were to face trial, but Corporal Anthony Simon was stepped down, as the lead Prosecutor, Captain Nwosu, urged the court to excuse him on the grounds that he was too sick to appear for trial and the tribunal accepted his plea.
The case was adjourned to today for more hearing.