Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Thursday commended the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration and Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, for reinstating some soldiers who were dismissed for varying offences arising from the ongoing counter-insurgency war in the North-East.
He, however, said beyond the reinstatement of the 3,032 soldiers out of 5,000 as announced by the army authorities on Monday, the various courts-martial where he said some officers and soldiers were being tried for “unjustifiable reasons”, should be dissolved immediately.
Falana argued that the soldiers who were being prosecuted and those already convicted by the various courts-martial were put on trial for demanding better equipment to fight the terror war.
He specifically called for the review of the cases of about 70 soldiers who had so far been sentenced to death by general courts-martial.
The respected lawyer recalled that “The immediate past military authorities put several soldiers on trial for demanding for equipment to fight the war on terror. Seventy of the soldiers were convicted and sentenced to death while scores were jailed by courts-martial.
“As the demand of the soldiers was legitimate, the military hierarchy could not justify the spurious sentences. To avoid further embarrassment, thousands of other soldiers who were indicted for the same ‘offence’, were summarily dismissed from the army. Convinced of the illegality of the treatment meted out to the soldiers, we approached the federal high court and the national Industrial Court for redress.
“It is gratifying to note that the Buhari Administration and the Chief of Army Staff have decided to reinstate 3,032 among the dismissed soldiers.
“However, we urge the Federal Government to extend the commendable gesture to several officers and soldiers who are currently standing trial. The trial should be terminated while the courts-martial are dissolved forthwith. In the same vein, the cases of those who have been convicted ought to be reviewed with a view to pardoning them in the interest of justice and fair play. More so, that the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh has admitted that the armed forces led by him lacked the equipment to prosecute the war on terror”.