TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Fourteen personnel of the Nigerian Army are facing court martial for alleged involvement in criminal offences ranging from murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and other light offences, in Rivers State.
The trial yesterday, followed the inauguration of a General Court Martial (GCM), which was performed by the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division and Land Component Commander, Operation Delta Force, Major General Jamil Sarham, in Port Harcourt.
Among the accused persons were three officers (including a Major) and 11 soldiers.
Earlier in his address, the GOC, Major General Sarham, said the inauguration of the General Court Martial was pursuant to Section 131 of the Armed Forces Act, conferred on him.
He stated: “The offences for which the accused persons are being tried range from murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, desertion, offences in relation to public and services property, disobedience to standing orders and conducts to the prejudice to service discipline, all punishable under the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“The NA is a creation of the Nigerian Constitution to carry out specific tasks to support the government effort in providing security for the Nigerian Nation.
“To achieve this, a disciplined and professional Armed Forces is imperative and this is in line with the Chief of Army Staff’s vision, which is “To have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles”.
“There is no gainsaying that unless such a body of professionals is disciplined, achieving victory in battle and other specified assignments would not be easy.
“Section 131 of the Armed Forces Act therefore conferred on me the power to convene this General Court Martial and by so doing to try the accused persons who have allegedly violated some codes guiding our professional conduct”, he explained.
Speaking further, Major General Sarham disclosed that the Court Martial is only one of the apparatus put in place by the Armed Forces of Nigeria to discipline its erring personnel.
“The establishment of Court Martial is predicated on the fact that the Armed Forces of Nigeria holds its personnel in high esteem, hence, its resolve to ensure that a thorough investigation must be conducted before any suspect can be put on trial as it is in the instant case.
“Let me at this juncture assure all of us that justice will not only be done on this entire trial, but be seen to have been done. This is not only because the case against each accused person was thoroughly investigated to ensure that an innocent person is not wrongly tried and punished as I pointed out earlier.
“Also, HQ 6 Division has painstakingly selected credible officers as members of the Court Martial to ensure fair hearing and justice. In addition to that, due regard was accorded to these officers having indebt knowledge of military law and outstanding experience of military duties”, he posited.
The GOC, however, urged members of the court to be just and fair in the conduct of the trial, to ensure that each accused person is given a fair trial.
Responding, President of the seven-man General Court Martial, Brigadier General Bassey Etuk, assured that, by the confidence reposed on them (members of GCM), they would do justice.