Have Mercy – Falana Writes Buhari, Seeks Pardon For Jailed Soldiers
BEVERLY HILLS, December 19, (THEWILL) – Human rights Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has written to President Muhammadu Buhari to grant pardon to 70 soldiers found guilty of mutiny by various military courts since 2014.
Falana, in a letter written to the President dated December 19, 2016, argued that there was no legal and moral justification for the conviction and sentences imposed on the by the courts-martial since the demand of the soldiers for weapons found justification in the criminal diversion of the huge funds provided for the purchase of arms and armament to fight the terrorists.
“In Your Excellency's interview aired by the BBC Hausa service on December 28, 2015 you rightly observed that 'The government at that time sent the soldiers to the battlefield without arms and ammunition to prosecute the war. That was what led some of them to mutiny. They were arrested and detained because of this,” he wrote.
“In the light of the foregoing, Your Excellency will agree with us that since the armed forces were not equipped to defend the territorial integrity of the nation the convicts did not commit mutiny or any other offence whatsoever in demanding for adequate weapons to fight the well-armed insurgents.
“But assuming without conceding that our clients committed any offence they have suffered enough having spent over three years in dehumanizing prison conditions.
“However, since the demand for weapons to carry out counter-insurgency operations in the north east zone was legitimately made by our clients under the Armed Forces Act, we urge Your Excellency to grant them pardon pursuant to Section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
“The courts-martial which tried our clients deliberately failed to take cognizance of Section 179 of the Armed Forces Act which permits “a soldier, rating or aircraftman to make a complaint to his commanding office and that he shall not be penalized for having made a complaint.
“The Arms Procurement Panel set up by Your Excellency has confirmed that the huge fund earmarked for the purchase of arms and ammunition was criminally diverted by former services chiefs and other senior military officers.”
THEWILL recalls that the soldiers in question are currently held in custody at the Ikoyi and Kirikiri Prisons in Lagos as the death sentence meted to them has been committed to 10 years imprisonment.
Story by Oputah David