Army court-martials four officers, 16 others in Borno

Chief of Army Staff, Gen. T. Y. Buratai

Chief of Army Staff, Gen. T. Y. Buratai

• Why Boko Haram remnants are still in North East, by COAS

No fewer than 20 soldiers including four officers are being court-martialed for various offences allegedly committed in the prosecution of the war on terror in North-East.

Inaugurating a seven-member General Court Martial (GCM) at the Maiduguri Media Centre, the Acting General Officer Commanding 7 Division, Nigerian Army, Brig-Gen. Victor Ezugwu said that the trial of four officers and 16 junior others was to achieve a quick dispensation of justice within the framework of the statute books.

Gen. Ezugwu, who noted that discipline is the bedrock of the military profession, said that to have a disciplined body of officers and men, there must be justice. “It is when there is justice that discipline can be achieved.” According to the army chief, it is important for the prosecution and the accused persons, including their counsel, to be mindful of this fact and strive to shun all forms of antics that could result in frivolous adjournments and delays in trial processes.

He said that justice delayed is justice denied.

“The President, Brig-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi and six other members of the court martial must dispense this all-important assignment in accordance with the extant laws and ensure that your opinion on all the cases brought before you is not in any way beclouded with bias, external pressure or extraneous factors,” he said.

According to Ezugwu, the outcome of the court martial must be based on careful appreciation of the whole facts of each case and evidence placed before the court.

For the accused, Ezugwu said: “Be assured that you are all presumed innocent until this honourable court finds otherwise. Your right to fair hearing and other fundamental human rights would be adhered to throughout this trial.”

He said that the Nigerian Army, through the court martial, should not condone cases of violation of laws of armed conflict in the discharge of constitutional responsibilities.

He said the accused persons could appeal verdicts passed by the GCM at the appeal and Supreme courts.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has said there are still remnants of the terrorists in some parts of the North-East due to the vast nature of the region.

The Army chief spoke when the three service chiefs, comprising the Army, Navy and Air Force, were at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, on Tuesday to present papers to the Course 38 participants on their preparedness to ward off any internal and external aggression.

The service chiefs also spoke on how the military has been able to demystify the Boko Haram insurgents, saying the terrorists were only struggling for survival as a result of being routed from their strongholds.

Buratai said the terrorists still exist in scattered and uncoordinated nooks and crannies of the northeastern part of the country. “They (terrorists) still exist in the region, especially Borno, as the area is diverse and some parts cannot be easily accessed. The land is so vast; the North-East is very, very vast. You never appreciate it until you fly over that area or even drive around.

“Those remote areas are so difficult, diverse and thick with a very difficult terrain. Now that it is the rainy season, it is very difficult to move heavy equipment, heavy tracking vehicles into some of those areas. The best time is the dry season.”

The Army chief, whose presentation held the attention of the audience, added that President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to relocate the military control and command centre from Abuja to Maiduguri was highly strategic in the counter-insurgency operation.

Also yesterday, the Al-Hayah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (ACBAN) said that about 1,900 herdsmen were killed by the Boko Haram insurgents in various attacks in Borno State between 2012 and 2015.

Chairman of the association, Ibrahim Mafa, disclosed this at a news conference in Maiduguri, while briefing journalists on the massacre of herdsmen by terrorists in various villages and towns in the state.

According to him, members of the association also lost about 169, 000 cows; 63, 000 rams; goats and sheep to the insurgency.

Mafa said that during the over three-year insurgency, some of the rustled livestock were kept around Dikwa and Bama axis for onward transportation and sale to other parts of the country, including Chad, Niger and Cameroun.

“We also lost about 400, 000 bags of grains and a higher number of our members were displaced,” said Mafa. He added that most of the herdsmen lost cows, property and houses worth billions of naira from 10 councils in northern Borno.

He appealed to the federal and state governments to “intervene and assist” members of ACBAN who are in dire need to survive in the livestock industry.

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