By Andy Chukwu
The Nigerian Army has revealed that it has begun proceedings to court-martial 14 officers and soldiers accused of murder, kidnapping, desertion, among other criminal offences.
Inaugurating the court proceedings in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital on Saturday, Major General Jamil Sarham, General Officer Commanding (GOC), Army 6 Division, Port Harcourt, said the suspects were officers and soldiers of the division.
Sarham said the general court martial was convened in compliance to section 131 of the armed forces act, guiding the professional conduct of the nation’s military.
“The offences for which the accused persons are being tried range from murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, desertion,” he said.
“Others are offences in relation to public and service property, disobedience to standing orders and conducts to the prejudice to service discipline.
“All the offences are punishable under the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
The GOC said the army has zero tolerance to indiscipline, adding that it would never shield any personnel, no matter how highly placed from the law.
He said the armed forces hold personnel in high esteem, and as such, would not put personnel on trial unless the matter was thoroughly investigated.
Sarham said the trial was not only aimed at prosecuting the suspects but to discourage others from indulging in criminality.
“To this end, each accused person was thoroughly investigated to ensure that an innocent person is not wrongly tried and punished,” he said.
“The headquarters 6 division has painstakingly selected credible officers with in-depth knowledge and outstanding experience of military law and duties as members of the court-martial to ensure fair hearing and justice.”
Sarham urged the seven-man court-martial panel led by Bassey Etuk, a brigadier-general, to ensure that the accused persons are given a fair trial.
The accused personnel are made up of three officers and 11 soldiers, including a major, two captains, two staff sergeants, and one sergeant, among other ranks.