Senior advocate of Nigerian Femi Falana has described the sentencing to death of 54 soldiers on Wednesday by the General court martial following their conviction on a two-count charge of conspiracy to mutiny as a gross miscarriage of justice.
Fifty nine soldiers were put on trial by the court-martial out of which five were discharged and acquitted.
The condemned soldiers, in a statement issued through their counsel, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) argued that sending them to go and confront heavily armed Boko Haram terrorists without providing them with adequate arms and ammunition was equivalent to asking them to commit suicide.
They explained that their refusal to obey orders of the Commanding Officer of the Special Forces Battalion, Lt. Colonel Opurum, was fuelled by non availability of arms and ammunition to prosecute the instruction of the commander.
According to Falana’s statement, “Yesterday (Wednesday), the General Court-Martial sitting in Abuja which tried another batch of 59 soldiers for conspiracy to mutiny and mutiny convicted 54 of the accused persons and sentenced them to death while five were discharged and acquitted.
“The acquittal was designed to give the false impression that the dubious verdict was fair and just. The soldiers were in the Special Forces 111 Battalion which has 174 instead of 750 soldiers. The soldiers in the Battalion were neither equipped nor motivated. They are young men whose ages range between 21 and 25. Most of them joined the army in 2012.
“With little or no training whatsoever they were deployed to fight the dreaded Boko Haram sect. The funds allocated for payment of the salaries and allowances of the soldiers and for purchase of arms and ammunition are usually diverted and cornered by corrupt military officers.
“Instead of bringing such unpatriotic officers to book, the military authorities have engaged in the diversionary tactics of wasting the lives of innocent soldiers by sentencing them to death without any legal justification.
The defence said that by not providing the soldiers with adequate weapons, the Federal Government had violated Section 217 (2) (b) of the Constitution which provides that the Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air.