Army doctor punished for alleged unlawful admission of nursing students for clinical training
A major-general in the Nigerian Army and a trained medical doctor has been demoted to the rank of Brigadier-General for alleged unlawful admission of nursing students for clinical training without due clearance from the army headquarters.
A Special Court Martial of the Nigerian Armed Forces demoted the Director of 68 Reference Hospital, Yaba, in Lagos, Major General Patrick Falola, to the rank of Brigadier General.The demotion followed the conviction of the Major General who was accused of unlawfully admitting Nigerian students studying in Espan Formation University Cotonou in Benin Republic between July and September 2016.
Delivering judgment in the case against Maj General Falola, who is presently a Commander of the Armed Forces Hospital in Kano, President of the Special Court Martial, Air Vice Marshal James Gbum, sentenced the accused officer to a reduction in rank from Major General to Brigadier General on count one of the charge.He was, however, discharged and acquitted of the second count of fraudulent misapplication of the hospital’s property.
Lawyer to Major General Falola, Wing Commander Enokela Onyilo-Uloko [Rtd], however, faulted the conviction, saying it was a premeditated attempt to taint the unblemished record of his client whom he described as a distinguished medical officer with outstanding records.
He explained: “On hearing of this kind of conviction, we know that it is based on nothing. There is no law, no instruction put on the ground by the armed forces that the senior officer needs to take permission from the higher authority before allowing such training to Nigerian citizens.
“No such law or instruction was tendered in evidence, but they are saying that he should have used his initiative. When there is no law criminalizing an act, when that act is done, it does not amount to criminal offence.” The lawyer vowed to appeal the judgment of the Special Court Martial. However, the judgment of the Army court martial is subject to confirmation by the Nigerian Army Council.
During the proceeding, the department of the Military Secretary (Army) presented the service record of the General to the Special Court Martial. On records, Major General Patrick Falola was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1982, he was described as an officer of impeccable character noted for his intelligence, honesty, transparency, dedication to work, enthusiasm for Military service and has always been an outstanding medical officer of the Military. As a senior consultant ophthalmologist, he served Nigeria as the chairman Ophthalmological Society of Nigeria (OSN) Lagos State Chapter, where he represented the army very well.
According to the same records, Major General Falola, apart from the 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, has also commanded several other Military Hospitals including the Military Hospital Lagos (Greek), 3 Div. Hospital Jos and the Armed Forces Specialist Hospital Kano. It was noted in the records that he significantly upgraded all these hospitals, for example, he refurbishment and setup the Intensive Care Unit and Neonatal Unit at both Greek and Yaba Hospitals.
The Army further stated that he transformed the Bonny Camp (Lagos) Eye Centre to a world-class status; he introduced Laser Equipment worth millions of naira at no cost to the Nigeria Army, but by sheer dedication to work and resourcefulness. He is reputed to be an exemplar military administrator, clinician and surgeon. He was singly commended for his prompt and professional handling of Cholera outbreak in Jos and proactive initiatives to prevent Lassa fever and Ebola outbreaks in the Barracks. In all his years, there has never been a breach of military discipline reported against him.
The Special Court Martial, which sat at Army Headquarter (AHQ) Garrison Conference Hall Mogadishu Cantonment Asokoro, Abuja, had The Nigerian Army as the complainant and Major General P.A.A. as accused person.
The first charge read in part: “… In that you, Maj. Gen .PAA Falola, at 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Yaba, Lagos state between 6 July and 17 September 2015 conducted yourself in a manner prejudicial to good orders and service discipline by admitting student Nurses from a foreign University ESPAM Formation University, Cotonou Republic of Benin for Clinical training in the hospital, without clearance from appropriate superior authority.”
The second charge was: “… In that you, Maj. Gen. PAA Falola, at 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Yaba, Lagos state between 6 July and 17 September 2015 fraudulently misapplied service property of 68 NARH Yaba by giving the hospital accommodation with other facilities of the hospital to Nurses from a foreign University ESPAM Formation University, Cotonou Republic of Benin admitted into the hospital for Clinical training.”
The defence counsel noted: “In 2015, during the tenure of Maj. Gen. PAA Falola as Commander of NARHY, ESPAM Formation University in Cotonou, Republic of Benin sent some student Nurses (Nigerians) for clinical experience to 68 NARHY. Maj. Gen. PAA Falola allowed the students to undergo the experience in line with what he met on the ground on assumption of duty. It is on record that the programme had been on going before Gen PAA Falola resumed duty as Commander of NARHY.
“However, during the tenure of one Maj. Gen. RN Nkado as Commander (Gen Falola’s predecessor) it was alleged that he, Nkado advised the ESPAM University authority to seek approval from appropriate authority before he could allow the students in. This he did on his own initiative as he admitted during cross-examination before the honourable court. There was no standing order or policy directive from the Medical Corps, or the Nigerian Army Headquarters on this. Each Commander was handling the issue on his own initiative.
“The said Maj. Gen. RN Nkado neither orally briefed Gen Falola on this his initiative or include such briefing in a hand-over note to Gen. Falola on the latter’s assumption of office as Commander NARHY in 2015.
“Few months after retiring from the service, the same Maj. Gen. Nkado, singularly in the name of Reuben Enterprises visited NARHY and wrote a devastating report on the performance of Gen. Falola that has now resulted in the convening of this special court martial to try the Accused Senior officer on the two count charges earlier mentioned.
“The second charge is rather a flow from the first charge as those students have been presumed to have used the Army facilities in the hospital for their clinical experience. The only strange word is ‘Fraudulent’ which to our minds connotes different implication of the charge as shall be addressed in this written address of the defence.”
Onyilo-Uloko submitted: “that ‘Conduct to prejudice of service discipline’ having not been defined in any of the Penal laws in Nigeria (Armed Forces Act Cap A20 LFN, the Penal code, the Criminal code and the Grandnorm, the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), the accused is not triable in the eye of the law on such offence charged and we urge the honourable court to so hold. The conduct/conducts to prejudice of service discipline ought to be defined precisely and also limited to enable any court of law to conduct trial/trials on it or them. Such conduct/conducts are not known precisely and have no limit. So, any behavior can be classified as conduct to the prejudice of service discipline depending on how the Accuser/Complainant sees such conduct and not because it constitutes an offence stricto-senso.
“We humbly submit that since the offence charged is not triable by Court Martial (equivalent of the High Court of Justice), the accused person cannot be tried on it. We urge the Honourable Court to so hold, discharge and acquit the Accused on this count charge in the interest of justice.
“On issue no. two (2), it is humbly submitted that the conduct of the accused person in the episode cannot be said to have prejudiced discipline in the Nigerian Army. For conduct to have prejudice discipline in the Nigerian Army, we submit, such conduct must have the following elements:
“… We submit, are absent from the conduct of the accused person who only merely allowed Nigerian student Nurses from ESPAM University Cotonou Republic of Benin to have clinical experience in NARH. To buttress the fact that the conduct of the accused person never prejudiced service discipline in any way, the evidence of the witnesses should be taken note of….”
The lawyer concluded: “This Honourable court is called upon to determine the faith of a Maj Gen who has put in nothing less than a total of 43years in the service of the Nation. Luckily, the court is composed of the most senior officers in their various Arms of service. The court has one of the seasoned Lawyers in the Nigerian Army as the Learned Judge Advocate. We are therefore confident that Justice and nothing but Justice will be done in this case.
“It is our expectation that where there is no law criminalizing on action, such action should be treated as a crime or an offence. Just as it is the case in this trial. We hope that only when the prosecution has proved all the essential ingredients in a case that the court will return a verdict of guilt on that count charge. Precedents should be a guiding word in deciding whether the present action of the accused person constitute a breach of law or not.
“Finally, we expect that every decision of this Honourable court in this case, should stand the test of credibility before any higher court that may be required to review the case in future. We wish the Honourable court a fruitful deliberation in the interest of justice before arriving at verdict. We thank you all.”