A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) has dragged the Nigerian Army before a Federal High Court in Abuja challenging the death sentenced passed by the military General Court Martial on 12 soldiers.
A nine-man GCM had on September 16, 2014 pronounced 12 Nigerian soldiers guilty of mutiny and consequently sentenced them to death by firing squad.
But Agbakoba, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/708/2014, is contesting the legality of the military tribunal.
According to him, the composition of the GCM violated Section 36(1) of the Constitution, which preserves the right of an accused person to fair hearing.
The lawyer argued further that Sections 133(3)(4) and (5) of the Armed Forces Act, which empowered the GCM, was null and void since it was inconsistent with Section 36(1) of the Constitution.
In the affidavit in support of his suit, Agbakoba averred that it was unlawful for the Commander of the Army Headquarters Garrison, Mogadishu Cantonment, Brig.-Gen. D.T. Ndiomu, to single-handedly appoint all the members of the military tribunal.
According to him since all the members of the GCM were soldiers appointed by Ndiomu, the convicted soldiers had been denied their right to independence and impartial trial.
The Senior Advocate said, “The independence and impartiality of the Court Martial was not secured in the trial of the soldiers. This is because all those who participated in the events related to the Court Martial were Army officers. They were the investigators, the prosecutors, the president, the judge advocate, the waiting member and other members of the Court Martial.”
The suit filed under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 is seeking, among other reliefs,”A declaration that the convening and composition of Army General Court Martial which convicted and sentenced the 12 soldiers to death by firing squad for various offences on September 16, 2014 is contrary to Section 36(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999.”
Agbakoba is praying the court to set aside the death sentence on the 12 soldiers.