By Sadiq Umar – Fourteen 14 officers and soldiers accused of murder, kidnapping, and desertion, among other criminal offences have been arraigned by the Nigeria Army.
The accused facing court martial are officers and soldiers of the Army 6 Division, Port Harcourt, River State.
Inaugurating the court proceedings in Port Harcourt, Saturday, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Army 6 Division, Jamil Sarham said the court martial would serve as a deterrent to others, adding that the Army has zero tolerance to indiscipline and would never shield any personnel, no matter how highly placed from the law.
Mr. Sarham said the court martial was convened in compliance to Section 131 of the Armed Forces Act guiding the professional conduct of the nation’s military.
According to the GOC, “the offences for which the accused persons are being tried range from murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, desertion.
“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,” he said.
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.
According to him, 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.
“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.”
Mr Sarham urged the seven-man court-martial panel led by its President, Bassey Etuk, a brigadier-general, to ensure that the accused persons are given a fair trial.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 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.