BY PHILIP NWOSU
The Nigerian Navy has convened a general court-martial to try thirteen naval personnel, among whom three ratings who were alleged to have committed offences that infringe on the force’s fight against maritime crime.
The thirteen naval personnel include a Naval Captain (Colonel equivalent in the Army), Commanders, (Lieutenant Colonel equivalent), Lieutenant Commanders (Majors equivalent) and Sub Lieutenant (Lieutenant equivalents in Army).
The others were ratings, including a female whom was alleged to have connived with others to commit the offence.
The President of the Court-Martial, Rear Admiral Zakariya Muhammad said the court will be fair to all the accused persons and that it will ensure all the accused persons have legal representations during the trial and those who cannot provide one will be provided for.
Although he declined to specifically say what each accused person is being tried for, Admiral Muhammad said that officers committed civil and military offences, hence the initiation of the court-martial to try them.
He said that the court martial is composed of experienced officers, adding that the 13 personnel are presumed innocent unless proven otherwise by the prosecution counsel.
The court President said that the accused personnel have been availed with the fundamental entitlement of defence counsels of their choice, especially as they have ample opportunity of defending themselves.
He said that the General Court Martial will uphold the tenets of fair hearing for all the accused persons, adding that all parties to trial are required to abide by the rules of the court so that at the end of the trial justice would be done.
Whilereading the convening order, the Judge Advocate Lieutenant Commander Godspower Oyibo said the General Court Martial was convened by Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command in line with the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 to try the 13 naval personnel.
Recently, the Nigerian Navy said it wishes to further reiterate its position on zero tolerance for economic sabotage, isolated cases of personnel complicity in illegal acts as well as its resolve to fight all forms of criminal activities in the nation’s maritime domain.
Accordingly, the Nigerian Navy encourages anyone with useful information regarding criminals operating in the Nigeria’s maritime environment or those aiding and abetting them, to please oblige the Service such information. The information so received and the informants are assured of utmost confidentiality in handling.