Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has called for the immediate release of Brig. Gen. Enitan Ransome-Kuti, the former Commander of the Multi National Joint Task Force, who was convicted by a special court martial and sentenced to six months imprisonment.
Falana demanded his release from prison custody having completed the six months sentence imposed on him by a Special Court Martial set up to try him by the Nigerian Army on October 15, 2015.
Falana, who made the call in a statement he issued in Lagos yesterday and addressed to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said that if his request is not acceded to by the army authority he would approach the court to enforce his client’s right to liberty.
Recall that Mr. Ransome-Kuti was sentenced by a Special Court Martial on October 15, 2015, for alleged offences during the war against Boko Haram.
The court martial found him guilty on the following grounds and sentenced him accordingly:
• The first count charge, which was “cowardly behaviour” was struck out but he was found guilty on count charge number two, which was “failure to perform military duties” and was dismissed from the Nigerian Army.
• He was equally found guilty on count charge number 3, which was “miscellaneous offences relating to service property” and was awarded six months imprisonment.
His lawyer, Falana, however, insisted that he (Ransom-Kuti) was “unjustly convicted” by the court martial.
The Lagos lawyer noted that by virtue of Regulations 54 and 55 of the Prisons Regulations made pursuant to the Prisons Act (CAP. P29) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 which provides that every convict is entitled to a remission of one third of the sentence imposed by a court, Ransome-Kuti ought to have been released on February 15, 2016.
He said, “It would be recalled that our client was unjustly convicted and sentenced to dismissal from the Nigerian Army and 6-month imprisonment by a Special Court Martial on October 15, 2015.
“As the findings of the Special Court Martial are subject to the confirmation of the appropriate authority we made a strong representation to the Army Council on behalf of our client.
“By letter dated October 19 2015 we also requested the Authorities of the Nigerian Army to release our client from military custody pending the determination of the appeal which he intended to file against the unjust findings of the Special Court Martial which convicted him of war related crimes and sentenced him to 6-month imprisonment and dismissal from the Nigerian Army.
“For reasons best known to you, the request for our client’s release pending appeal was turned down by your good self in flagrant violation of section 160 of the Armed Forces Act (Cap A20) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“Thus, you caused our client to serve the 6-month prison term without the confirmation of the findings of the Special Court Martial by the Army Council.
“As if that was not enough, you have ignored our demand for the release of our client since he completed the 6-month prison term on February 15, 2016. In our letter dated February 12, 2016 on the subject matter, we had pointed out that our client ought to have spent 4 calendar months in custody by virtue of Regulations 54 and 55 of the Prisons Regulations made pursuant to the Prisons Act (CAP. P29) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 which provides that every convict is entitled to a remission of one third of the sentence imposed by a court.
“In view of the foregoing, you will agree with us that the continued detention of our client cannot be justified under the Armed Forces Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. We are therefore compelled to request you to use your good offices to ensure that our client is released from unjust and illegal incarceration forthwith.
“Take Notice that if you fail or refuse to accede to our request by ensuring the immediate release our client we shall not hesitate to seek redress in the Federal High Court with a view to securing the enforcement of his fundamental right to person liberty guaranteed by section 35 of the Constitution and article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.