Sunday, August 2, 2015

Whither the Nigerian capital cases?

Nigerian courts-martial have handed down a number of death sentences in recent months. The latest development, recounted here, is the initiation of contempt proceedings by counsel for the condemned men based on the government's failure to make records of trial available to facilitate review. According to the news report:
Counsel to the soldiers, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) [Senior Advocate of Nigeria], told Leadership Sunday that since the soldiers were sentenced to death by a military court martial, the military had not been cooperating in efforts to get relevant documents to challenge the judgment that sentenced them to death.
He said contempt proceeding had been initiated at the court to make sure the military complies with the order of the court that asked them to make available the record of proceedings at the military court martial.

Obla said, "We've filed a motion for contempt since they refused to comply with court order. We applied for the release of the record of proceedings at the special court that sentenced them to death but they have not complied. We will give them the benefit of the doubt that they will comply now that there is a new leadership in place in the military."
Nigeria has a new Chief of Defence Staff. The transition to new leadership has not been without controversy:
In a related development, prominent lawyers in the country have condemned [Alex] Badeh over his statement that Nigerian military is ill-equipped. 
Badeh made the statement last week during his passing out parade from the military. 
The lawyers, while reacting in separate telephone interviews, averred that Badeh should have resigned when he knew that the military he headed was ill-equipped. 
Commenting on the import of the former defence chief's comment on the case of soldiers on death row, who had protested lack of adequate arms to confront Boko Haram insurgents and were court martialled and sentenced by the military, a senior advocate of Nigeria, Mallam Yusuf Ali, said there was no justification for the actions of the condemned soldiers who absconded from the war front, adding that Badeh should have resigned instead of making such statement during his passing out parade. 
"There can be no justification for cowardice. You have to take the risk involved since you have sworn to defend the country. I agree that they should be granted some reprieve but I disagree with what Badeh said. What he said is not an excuse for cowardice. Why did he retain the job when he knew that they were ill-equipped? Hunger is not an excuse for stealing," he emphasised.

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