Army Court Martials 59 Soldiers Over Mutiny, Insubordination

militaryA military court martial has began the trial of 59 soldiers in Abuja for alleged criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny and for disobeying the order of their commanding officer in Maiduguri, Borno state capital on August 4, 2014 in Maiduguri.

The accused soldiers were also charged with mutiny for refusing to obey the orders of their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Timothy Opurum, of the 111 Special Forces Battalion, to take part in an operation.

The judge advocate, Lt. Col Ukpe Ukpe, who read the charges to them, said the operation in question was meant‎ to recapture Yelwa, Bellabulini, and Damboa in Borno State.

Although, the Army authorities initially planned to charge 60 soldiers for mutiny, the charges against one of the accused was dropped because of ill health.

The lead prosecutor, Capt. Joseph Nwosu, called the attention of the court to the fact that the 11th accused person, CPL Anthony Simon, was too sick to be arraigned.

He said the list of accused had to be amended to reflect that 59 people are being arraigned for mutiny.

The 59 accused soldiers are being defended by the law firm of Mr. Femi Falana.

Nigerian Army Charge 97 Officers, Soldiers To General Court Martial

Military Court MartialA general court-martial has been inaugurated to hear charges against 97 soldiers, including 16 officers accused of mutiny, assault, cowardice and refusing to fight members of Boko Haram in the north eastern part of the country.

The latest trial comes two weeks after 12 soldiers were sentenced to death by firing squad for mutiny and attempted murder of their Commanding Officer in Maiduguri, Borno State.

After the President of the general court martial and other members of the panel took their oath of office, signalling the commencement of the trial, there was an argument between the defence lawyers and the Judge-Advocate of the court martial, Lieutenant-Colonel Ukpe Ukpe.

Counsels to the accused persons, Femi Falana and Godwin Anyamelechi, argued that having been listed as the Assistant Director of Legal Services to the Nigeria Army, Lieutenant-Colonel Ukpe cannot play the role of the Judge-Advocate since he may have given judicial advice in the case.

This position was opposed by the prosecuting counsel, Captain Ruth Agwai with Lt Colonel Ukpe also defending his position as the Judge Advocate. According to him, the law has stipulated the condition and criteria of a Judge Advocate.

Nevertheless, Lt Colonel Ukpe eventually took his oath after the arguments, when no further objection was raised to his position as Judge Advocate.

To kick-start the trial, the President of the Court Martial, Brigadier-General Musa Yusuf, listed the charges against the accused persons and gave the assurance that the trial would not only be accelerated but that he would ensure fair-hearing to all the accused soldiers and justice would be done at the end.

Trial of the accused persons has been fixed for October 15, 2014.

Mutiny: Court Martial Verdict Was Right – Lawyer

MutinyLegal Practitioner, George Ekeh, has disagreed with the view that the Nigerian soldiers recently sentenced to death for Mutiny by a court martial were wrongly tried.

This was in reaction to veteran Lawyer, Femi Falana, who, in an earlier interview, had expressed the opinion that the soldiers, under the Armed Forces Act, should have been tried under Section 52:2.

Ekeh argued that the soldiers were rightly charged under the right section of the constitution – Section 52:1 – which he read during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.

He noted that Mutiny has always been a grave offence in the military and these soldiers had been aware of it from the moment they were recruited.

He also took on the insinuations that some of the officers that made up the military court were not legal practitioners and their  judgement could be faulty.

Ekeh emphasized this as an erroneous assumption, stating that many of the officers were qualified lawyers.

He made reference to the recently held Nigerian Bar Association, NBA conference in Owerri, which he said had about 5% of participants attending in the military uniforms.

Ekeh also dismissed the view that the soldiers had feeble representation which might have worked against them. He argued that the most important thing was that the lawyer stood up to plead for mercy on their behalf.

He noted that the court was also working based on evidences and all available evidences must have pointed against the soldiers, a situation which meant that the case was already a bad one.

A Channels Television viewer, however, suggested via social media that Nigeria needs more of its soldiers alive as it battles insurgency and this view Ekeh shared.

Although he maintained that the death sentence was the rightful judgement, he conceded that because of the circumstances of Nigeria being in a state of war, the soldiers could be pardoned.

Falana Berates Treatment of Poor Nigerians By Law Enforcement Agencies

Femi FalanaA Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, on Wednesday berated the culture of parading suspects by Nigerian law enforcement agencies, noting that only poor citizens were treated in such ways.

Falana, who was a guest on Sunrise Daily, described the act of parading suspects who have not been pronounced guilty by the Court, as illegal.

“Apart from the EFCC and the Customs, all law enforcement agencies in Nigeria engage in the illegal parade of criminal suspects,” he said, explaining that the act is “prejudicial to the right of the accused person’s right to fair hearing.

“When you arrest a suspect, before investigation, or in the middle of investigation, or even upon conclusion of investigation, you rush to the media to parade them (suspects) and tell the whole world (that), they’ve made confessions and statements.”

The trend, he said is contrary to the provisions of the right to fair hearing guaranteed by Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act.

Falana went further to state that the illegal act was a “class matter” as the agencies usually parade poor individuals.

“If you look at it, it’s a class matter. You only parade the poor. I’ve never seen a situation where a former governor or a big shot in the society was paraded.”

“It’s limited to the poor. Armed robbery suspects, 419 boys (not the big ones), yahoo yahoo boys and ordinary people; but with respect to the rich, you dare not do that.”

Falana recounted an occasion when late Afrobeats icon, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was paraded by the NDLEA, noting that, “that organisation regretted the action because we went to court and sued for colossal damages”.

“At that time (I think 1997) we were asking the NDLEA to pay a 100 million Naira for parading Fela”, who had signed an exhibit form and added “in chains” to show that he had signed under duress.

According to Falana, the prosecution team was forced to beg that the case be settled out of court, as Fela had made a mockery of the system.

The lawyer stated that the act of parading a suspect could be described as “trial by media”, noting that, upon conclusion of investigations, it may be revealed that the suspect is innocent and so he may be released, because he has not been charged to court.

The Police, or the State Security Service or any of the other agencies have no power to pronounce the guilt or otherwise of a suspect, because under our law, there is presumption of innocence which is in favour of a suspect.”

Hence, until a suspect is pronounced guilty or otherwise by a Court, after having gone through a trial, you dare not pronounce guilt, Falana noted, adding that most of the confessional statements obtained by the agencies are not admissible in court, because they are obtained by torture and all manner of illegal means.

Speaking on the Nigerian justice system, Falana talked about several laws which are not respected by security agencies, especially when poor people are concerned.

He noted that although it is not compulsory for persons taken to the Police Station to write statements, officers are known for torturing people who choose not to write them.

He also said that although the law allows an accused person to seek counsel from his lawyer before making any statement, the Police is known to bar lawyers from meeting their clients at the police station.

“All these rights are not respected, with respect to the poor but when it comes to the rich, you talk of “invitation”. You don’t invite the poor. You invade their houses and arrest them; But when the EFCC, the Police wants to have what they call interaction with a big man or a big woman, you write politely”, he said.

Falana Asks UK To Facilitate Referral Of Israel To ICC Over Gaza

Femi-FalanaHuman rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, has written to British Prime Minister, David Cameron, seeking the investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court for unlawful killings and destruction of civilian property in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Falana urged Prime Minister Cameron to use the Kingdom’s position as President of the United Nation’s Security Council for the month f August, to refer Israel to the court.

“I am writing to request that you use your good offices and position to urgently facilitate the referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order for the court to investigate allegations of the unlawful killings and destruction of property perpetrated by Israel against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and West Bank” he said.

Falana further noted that since Israel “ has not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the only way the court will be able to exercise jurisdiction over Israel is by a referral by the Security Council, pursuant to article 13, paragraph (b) of the Rome Statute”.

In a letter made available to Channels Television, Mr Falana further noted that “this referral will also provide an important opportunity for the court to investigate any allegations of international crimes committed by all parties—whether involved directly or indirectly—in the ongoing armed conflict” adding that he  has “followed very closely the conflict and has no doubt that international humanitarian law, which aims principally to protect civilian population is breached with an almost absolute impunity by Israel”.

The letter noted that “the breach of international humanitarian law is illustrated by the failure to differentiate between military targets and civilians and civilian structures, and the clear intentional and deliberate attacks on civilians or civilian objects in particular, homes, medical facilities, and schools. I should mention that so far there is no evidence that such homes, medical facilities and schools are being used for military purposes. Therefore, there cannot be any justifications for such attacks including the wanton killing of children.

“I therefore urge you to urgently work with other members of the Security Council to ensure referral of Israel to the ICC over alleged international crimes as outlined above. In the meantime, the UK will do well to suspend all transfers of weapons, munitions and other military equipment and technology to Israel so it is not used to continue to perpetrate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, he said.

He also drew the attention of the British government to the fact that “leaders of some African countries who did not commit such grave crimes against humanity were indicted by the International Criminal Court”, insisting that it will be “in the best interest of justice and international accountability that the UK exercises strong leadership to end the vicious cycle of violence and impunity of perpetrators in the Gaza Strip and West Bank”, he added.

Law Weekly: Femi Falana Speaks On Nigeria’s Democracy, Security

Femi_FalanaOn this edition of Law Weekly, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana spoke on Nigeria’s 15 years of uninterrupted democracy, the security situation as well as Akwa Ibom’s controversial pension law.

Mr Falana is very well known for his activism. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1982 and has practised law for over 30 years.

In 2012, he was conferred with the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.

SERAP Petitions UN Special Rapporteur Over Killing Of Lawyers In Borno

SERAPSocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned Ms. Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers over the killings of lawyers in Borno State.

The organization urged Ms.Knaul to use her good offices and position to “urgently investigate recent reports of killings and attacks against lawyers in Borno State of Nigeria by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, and the failure of the Nigerian Government, and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to protect and defend lawyers who pay their practicing fees to the association.”

In the petition dated May 23, 2014, and signed by Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana, the organization expressed “concerns that apart from violating the rights of the lawyers to life, personal security and the freedom to practise their profession, increasing attacks also constitute a threat to the independence and operation of the legal profession and justice system.”

“SERAP believes that lawyers should be able to carry out their functions without risking their lives. They should receive adequate protection when their safety is threatened because of their job. Yet, neither the government nor the NBA has acted to address the crimes against lawyers,” the organization also said.

The organization also said that, “Borno State has become one of the most dangerous places for lawyers in the world especially given the continuing attacks perpetrated against lawyers with almost absolute impunity for many years. The perpetrators of the crimes against lawyers and other innocent citizens have not been held to account for their crimes.”

According to the organization, “Effective protection and prevention of attacks against lawyers is a key component of fostering the rule of law. SERAP believes that an attack against lawyers is an attack against the legal profession itself and the independence of the judiciary, and the constitutional and internationally recognized right of the people to access to justice because it aims to discourage lawyers from providing the people their legal services with utmost integrity, independence and sense of security.”

“Zanna Mallam Gana, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Borno State, was killed in his home in Bama on 17 September 2012. The killing of Gana has culminated in persistent attacks against lawyers and resulted in the killings of many other lawyers. Among the lawyers that have been killed by the Boko Haram are: Babagana Alkali, Modu Denjami, Ahmed Wali, Adamu Dugje, and Abubakar Sadiq. Many other lawyers like Peter Adebayo Bello and Musa Mohammed have been seriously injured,” the organization added.

The organization also said that, “Anyone assumed to be lawyers are routinely targeted by the Boko Haram in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Continuing killings and attacks against lawyers in these states and in particular Borno State are compounded by the absence of support and protection mechanisms by the leadership of the NBA. The NBA has failed to even condemn or request investigation of the killings and attacks against lawyers and the entire institutions of justice and the rule of law in Borno State.”

The organisation insisted that “the Nigerian Government has an obligation to provide conducive environment and to guarantee that lawyers can carry out all their professional duties without intimidation and without risking their safety and that of their relatives.”

Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states are the North East states under State of Emergency

Govt Sets Up Fact Finding Committee On Chibok Girls Abduction

Women-protest-Chibok-girls-abductionThe Nigerian government has set up a fact finding committee comprising security agencies, civil society groups and international organisations to get to the roost of the whereabouts of the girls abducted by suspected members of the Boko Haram sect on April 14 and work out more rescue strategies.

The committee was set up on Friday after a meeting between President Goodluck Jonathan and Security Chiefs where the security situations in Nigeria’s north were discussed.

This is coming three days after concerned women and relatives of the abducted girls began protest in the Federal Capital Territory to push the government to take action and rescue the girls. The protest is in its third day and the women have said that they would not end the protest until concrete action had been taken.

The functions of the committee are to liaise with the Borno State Government and establish the circumstances leading to the School remaining open for boarding students when other schools were closed, liaise with relevant authorities and the parents of the missing girls to establish the actual number and identities of the girls abducted, interface with the Security Services and Borno State Government to ascertain how many of the missing girls have returned and to mobilise the surrounding communities and the general public on citizen support for a rescue strategy and operation.

They are also to articulate a framework for a multi-stakeholder action for the rescue of the missing girls and advise the government on any matter incidental to the terms of reference.

Brig. General Ibrahim A. Sabo (Rtd.) is the chairman of the committee with Barrister Femi Falana, Hawa Ibrahim and Fatima Kwaku as members.

The committee will have two representatives of National Council of Women Societies, two representatives of the Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, two representatives of the National Parents Teachers Association, twp representatives of the Nigeria Police and two representatives of the State Security Service amongst others as members.

It will be inaugurated at the State House, Abuja on May 6.

The girls were abducted on April 14 after the suspected members of the sect attacked the Chibok community where the Government Girls Secondary School is situated.

The Borno State Commissioner of Police (CP), Tanko Lawan and the State Director of the Department of State Security, Ahmed Abdullahi, on Friday confirmed that 276 students of the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok were actually abducted.

Both men gave the confirmations at a joint news conference in Maiduguri, the state capital.

Mr Lawan said: “So far, we have established that no fewer than 276 girls were abducted at the Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok on April 14, 2014 by suspected members of the Boko Haram Terrorist Group”.

He further disclosed that; “out of the 276 abducted students of the school, 53 female students have been rescued; while 223 are still missing; and suspected being held by Boko Haram terrorists in various parts of the state”.

Kaduna Women Hold Rally To Demand Release of Abducted Chibok Girls

Chibok-Girls-Kibaku-Youth-Ass-Meets-FasholaHundreds of women in Kaduna State on Thursday protested over the abduction of over 200 school girls by Boko Haram members in Chibok, Borno State.

Leader of the women,  Sa’adatu Hama who briefed journalists  shortly after  the protest,  accused the Federal Government of not showing enough seriousness to secure the release of the innocent girls.

The women, comprising Christians and Muslims, gathered at the popular Murtala Mohammed Square in the state capital as early as 10 Am, walked round the Square with placards demanding the immediate release of the girls.

Having walked for about 40-minutes, these aggrieved mothers rolled themselves on the ground, wailing and shouting for the intervention of government for the release of the abducted school girls without delay.

The protest which was originally meant for only women was almost hijacked  by some boys who claimed that they were playing a fatherly role in line with the demands of the protesting mothers.

The Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Shehu Umar was also on ground to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order.

Scores of Nigerian women, and a few men, had also protested Wednesday in Abuja to demand the release of over 200 girls kidnapped on April 14 by insurgents believed to be members of the extremist Boko Haram sect.

The women, coordinated by Dr Obi Ezekwesili, Mariam Uwaiz, Saudatu Madi and Hadiza Bala Usman, marched from the Unity Fountain from about 3:30pm, singing to register their anger even as the police guided them to their destination.

They said that the demonstration was to register the agony they are feeling as a result of the abduction of the girls.

They held up placards with inscriptions like; Rescue Our Children, Please Find Our Daughters, Save Our Sisters, Rescue Our Chibok Girls.

Intermittently, they stopped to address the crowd, insisting that not even the rains can stop them until they get to the National Assembly, where the leadership of the National Assembly also defiled the rains to address them.

The Senate President, David Mark, House of Representatives’ speaker, Aminu Tambuwal and his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, addressed the women.

They stressed that the National Assembly had scheduled a meeting with the president to discuss the issue and assured the women that they would do their best to ensure that the girls would be rescued soon.

Moments later the women returned to the take-off point, where they poured out their anger over what they have been through so far following the abduction of the girls.

Some Nigerian men and concerned fathers, including human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, wonder why the authorities are paying lip service to the welfare and security of the citizens.

This is the second demonstration following the perceived inaction by security agencies over the abduction and continued detention of those Nigerian girls.

Nigerian Women Stage Protest To Demand Release Of Abducted Girls

Women-protest-Chibok-girls-abductionNigerian women in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Wednesday defiled the rains to stage a protest, registering their anger over the continued detention of over 200 Nigerian girls by the Boko Haram sect.

The girls of a Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok were abducted on April 14 after an attack on a the community.

Briefing journalists after the demonstrations the women said they would not rest until the girls were found and delivered back to their parents alive.

The protesting women were of the opinion that ongoing efforts must be swift, demanding for a swift search and rescue operation in order to secure the release of the girls.

“We are marching back to the National Assembly if after 24 hours they do not get any concrete and visible action,” one of the women told reporters.

The women, coordinated by Dr Obi Ezekwesili, Mariam Uwaiz, Saudatu Madi and Hadiza Bala Usman, marched from the Unity Fountain from about 3:30pm, singing to register their anger even as the police guided them to their destination.

They said that the demonstration was to register the agony they are feeling as a result of the abduction of the girls.

They held up placards with inscriptions like; Rescue Our Children, Please Find Our Daughters, Save Our Sisters, Rescue Our Chibok Girls.

Intermittently, they stopped to address the crowd, insisting that not even the rains can stop them until they get to the National Assembly, where the leadership of the National Assembly also defiled the rains to address them.

The Senate President, David Mark, House of Representatives’ speaker, Aminu Tambuwal and his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, addressed the women.

They stressed that the National Assembly had scheduled a meeting with the president to discuss the issue and assured the women that they would do their best to ensure that the girls would be rescued soon.

Moments later the women returned to the take-off point, where they poured out their anger over what they have been through so far following the abduction of the girls.

Some Nigerian men and concerned fathers, including human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, wonder why the authorities are paying lip service to the welfare and security of the citizens.

This is the second demonstration following the perceived inaction by security agencies over the abduction and continued detention of those Nigerian girls.

Court Restrains FCDA From Demolishing Houses In Gwarimpa

court_courtAn Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Danlami Senchi has granted an order of injunction restraining the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) from further demolishing houses at Winning Clause Estate in Gwarimpa pending the hearing and determination of a suit filed by subscribers to the estate.

At the resumed hearing of the suit, lawyer to the plaintiffs, Mr Femi Falana told the court that ahead of the court’s sitting; agents of the estate developer demolished several houses despite a consent judgment of the court which mandated parties to maintain the status quo.

Lawyer to the former owners of the estate, Mr Imoke Steve, also condemned the demolition exercise saying the defendants acted outside the consent judgment agreed to by all the parties.

Justice Senchi after granting the injunction adjourned hearing of the suit to May 19.

The Development Control Department of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) had led over 60 armed soldiers and mobile policemen to the estate for a demolition exercise where over 200 houses were pulled down.

 

Law Weekly: Femi Falana Raises Issues Concerning National Conference

Femi-Falana2On this edition of Law Weekly, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, who is a delegate representing the civil society at the National Conference raises issues concerning the meeting which has raised much controversy in the public domain.

In this interview segment, he gives his perspective on the motive, agenda, outcome of the Conference.