The Nigerian Army has pardoned and reinstated 3,032 out of 5000 soldiers, convicted of various disciplinary offences through series of General Court-Martial (GCM) set up by the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Kenneth Minimah (rtd).
The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman announced the reinstatement on thursday during a press conference to inform members of the public of the activities of the Nigerian Army within the period under review.
Usman recalled that the Nigerian Army some time ago instituted a committee to review the recent disciplinary cases in the service especially of those soldiers in the defunct Operation Zaman Lafiya with a view to ensuring discipline, regimentation and justice in the system.
He said: “The Committee has concluded its sitting last week and has made certain recommendations that led to the reinstatement of 3,032 soldiers into the Nigerian Army out of 5,000 cases that were reviewed.
“The reinstated soldiers have shown their total readiness to be re-launched into theatre to combat insurgency and have now commenced a re-training exercise at the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontagora, Niger State. This training is to re-orient the affected soldiers and prepare them for this closing stage of the operational aspect of the counter insurgency operations with more weapons and new leadership.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had given the Nigerian military a marching order, mid August, to ensure that the Boko Haram terrorists are crushed in three months.
The DAPR however, clarified “that not all the dismissed soldiers were granted pardon and recalled”, adding that “those with criminal cases for instance, have their sentences upheld”.
Speaking further, Usman said that the Nigerian Army and the military in general are working towards meeting the presidential directive during the decoration ceremony of the Chief of Defence Staff and Service Chiefs with their new badges of rank on August 13, 2015, to end the activities of Boko Haram terrorists in the North Eastern part of our country in 3 months.
”It is in that regard”, he said, “that we are working round the clock to meet up with the deadline in total synergy and cooperation with other services and security agencies.
“We would like to reassure the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and indeed the good people of our great nation that we would definitely meet up with the three-month deadline and do the nation proud.
“It is also in line with keeping faith with the public that we are working with a renewed resolve to always keep you updated of our operations as well as other activities of the Nigerian Army. Therefore, the essence of this conference is in line with our determination to carry the people along in all our activities,” he assured.
The Army Spokesman also used the opportunity to affirm the critical role played by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in the latest offensive that has seen the recapture of the strategic town of Gamboru-Ngala and as well as dislodging of the terrorists from their various enclaves.
Usman listed some of the crucial assistance from the Air Force including surveillance, intelligence, transportation of logistics and close air support during combat operations.
“It is on record that we have a very close cooperation and coordination of military offensive against the terrorists between the NAF and the Nigerian Army. Officers and airmen of the NAF in the North East have conducted themselves creditably and professionally to the admiration of the Nigerian Army.
“The bombardment of identified Boko Haram terrorists’ locations, close air support, air surveillance and interdiction by the NAF have enhanced our operational efficiency and success,” he said.
“The NAF were equally involved in the supplies of essential items, casualty evacuation, equipment and weaponry delivery in Operation Lafiya Dole. One will recall with gratitude how the Nigerian Air Force helped in the extrication and lifting of our T72 tank when it was bogged down by Improvise Explosive Devices at Logomari, Borno State.
“They have provided water and airlift of other logistics to the war front in addition to their primary role of air reconnaissance and air support. The collaboration with the NAF is also a force multiplier as troops are confident that they would receive quick medical attention in case any soldier needed such evacuation,” he added.
But in his reaction to the re-instatement, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) who had been the defence counsel of some of the convicted soldiers, noted that the pardon and reinstatement is the just and right thing to do given the fact that some of the soldiers were merely asking for weapons to fight.
In a statement he released last night, Falana maintained that, “The immediate past military authorities put several soldiers on trial for demanding for equipment to fight the war on terror. 70 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.
Falana then called on the Federal Government to “extend the same 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 fairplay. More so, that the immediate past chief of defence staff, Air Marshal Alex Barde has admitted that the armed forces led by him lacked the equipment to prosecute the war on terror.
In a related development, Usman informed that President Buhari has approved the award of Nigerian Army Medal (NAM) to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin and the COAS, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
Similarly, he said, the new Director of Military Intelligence (DMI), Brig-Gen. ASH Sa’ad has been honoured with the Republic of Mali Award of Mali Knight of National Order for his exceptional conduct while he served as Nigerian Military Attache in that country.
Also, he said, Lagos State Government is also honouring some officers and soldiers of 19 Battalion for their role that led to the bursting of a notorious robbery gang that terrorized the state.
Usman however, noted that the Nigerian Army is aware of the misunderstanding between those he described “some misguided soldiers” and the general public. He stressed that the Army is striving hard to improve their relationship with public, adding that they “would not tolerate any act of indiscipline or misconduct from our troops”.
Therefore, he said, I want to assure the public that in line with our procedures, we are taking appropriate measures to prevent such happenings and sanction all those involved. -The Nation