Saturday, October 11, 2014

Threat to fair trials in Nigeria

Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN
The attorney representing 12 Nigerian soldiers who have been sentenced to death has sent the following self-explanatory letter to Air Chief Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, the Chief of Defence Staff:
Dear Chief,
I read a statement attributed to you in the newspapers endorsing summary trials and execution in relation to soldiers and officers engaged in desertion and other military offences. Specifically, you were quoted to have said: “In fact, may be you will now push us to go and start doing field court martial in the bush. We try them, in five minutes we would have finished the trial, kill them, bury them and we go on with the fight.”
You reportedly made the above statement in reaction to comments by Nigerians against the decision of Army General Court Martial that sentenced 12 soldiers to death by firing squad for alleged mutiny and other military offences.
I hope that the statement does not represent what you said. I assume you have been misquoted. In the unfortunate event that the statement is true, I am shocked that this has come from Nigeria’s most senior sitting, serving military officer. With respect, the statement is repugnant to good conscience, equity and justice.
The era of military rule is over and the military is subordinate to the Constitution which has supremacy over all persons and authority. Without prejudice to the framework of Court Martials, they are subordinate to the Constitution. The popular point is that the trial of the soldiers was conducted contrary to fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution. This is the missed point in your comments.
I have filed an action in Court against the Court Martial decision. Let us hope that we will all abide by the outcome of the case.
Best regards.
Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, OON, FCIArb

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