A military court sitting in Abuja on Monday found 13 out of the 18 soldiers standing trial for mutiny and other offences guilty, sentencing 12 to death, 5 were discharged and acquitted while the remaining one was jailed for 28 days with hard labour.
The soldiers had on May 14, 2014 fired shots at the General Officer Commanding the newly created 7 Division of Nigerian Army, Ahmed Mohammed, in Maiduguri. They were found guilty of criminal conspiracy; mutiny, in an attempt to commit murder, insubordination to a particular order, and false accusation.
C.C. Okonkwo, the President of the Court Martial, said the 12 soldiers were found guilty of three of the most heinous charges.
The legal team of the convicts pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy, reeling out doleful stories about the family backgrounds of the convicted servicemen. One was said to be the only son of his octogenarian widowed mother. Another is the father of a five-month-old baby.
In view of these, the Defence team argued that giving them maximum sentence would do more harm than good, adding that it would increase the agony of their dependents.
Military sources said that soldiers at the cantonment had been complaining of insufficient ammunition, food and allowances prior to the GOC’s visit. They were also reportedly unhappy and their morale was at its lowest because there had not been troop rotation for a long time since their deployment to combat Boko Haram terrorists in the North- East.
“The GOC’s visit coincided with the arrival of the corpses of soldiers killed in an ambush in Chibok on the night of May 13, 2014. The apparently agitated soldiers, on sighting the corpses of their slain colleagues became hysteric. Some opened fire on the GOC, who was lucky to have escaped unhurt. However, the bullets hit and seriously injured some of his bodyguards, who also fled to safety,” the source said.