Mutiny – Appeal Court Stops Execution of Convicted Soldiers

ABUJA–The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has stopped the execution of the death sentence that was passed on two of the twelve Nigerian soldiers who were convicted last year by a Military Court Martial over their alleged complicity in acts of mutiny.

The soldiers were on September 15, 2014, condemned to death by the General Court Marshal which sat at the Army Headquarters Garrison, Mogadishu Cantonment in Abuja.

They were charged with offences that ranged from disobedience to particular order, insubordination, false accusation, criminal behavior, conspiracy to commit mutiny and mutiny under the Armed Forces Act 2004.

Three of the convicted soldiers, CPL Stephen Clement, CPL Igomu Emmanuel and PTE Andrew Ngbede, however went before the appellate court through their lawyer, Chief Godwin Obla, SAN, to challenge the decision of the Court Marshal which convicted and sentenced them to life imprisonment and death.

The convicted soldiers, in their separate suits, raised eleven grounds of appeal.

The argued that they were not granted fair trial, adding that the proceedings of the General Court Marshal was fraught with many fundamental irregularities.

They therefore prayed the appellate court to stay the execution of their sentences pending the hearing and determination of the appeals.

Meantime, the convicted soldiers had lamented the refusal of Nigerian military authority to release to their lawyer the record of proceedings at the court marshal to enable him to effectively challenge the outcome of the military tribunal at the court of appeal.

Series of correspondence by Chief Obla to both the Chief of Army Staff and the President and Commander In Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, wherein he expressed apprehension on the likelihood of the Army executing the convicted soldiers while their appeal is still pending, equally failed to attract any response from the military authorities.

However, in his bid to save the lives of his clients, their lawyer, Chief Obla, last February, took their plight before the National Human Rights Commission.

He urged the Commission to prevail on the Army to release the record of proceedings to enable him prosecute the appeal of his clients.

The effort also yielded no positive result as the Army still refused to release the document.

However, while delivering its ruling on the application for stay of execution filed before it by CPL Igomu Emmanuel and PTE Andrew Ngbede, two of the convicted soldiers on Monday, the Court of Appeal restrained the Nigerian Army or it’s agents from carrying out the execution of life imprisonment and sentence if death imposed by the General Court Marshal and ordered that the convicted soldiers be granted access to their lawyers.

The court presided by Justice Abubakar Jega Abdulkadir, also ordered the Nigerian Army to avail the convicted soldiers of the Record of Proceedings of the General Court Marshal which tried and convicted them to enable them compile records for their appeal.

The application for stay of execution filed by the third convicted soldier, CPL Stephen Clement, is yet to be heard as it was not listed on the Court’s list on the day those of the other convicted soldiers were heard.