Nigerian Army Debunks Allegations Of Nepotism Against Court-Martialed Soldiers


By Anne Osemekeh, Abuja

The Nigerian Army (NA) has refuted allegations in a report by an online news medium, of nepotism against some soldiers who were court-martialed in Enugu last year.

In a statement made available to correspondents on Saturday, the Army spokesman, Onyema Nwachukwu, posited that the ‘misleading report, entirely bereft of any strand of truth, was being circulated to cause disharmony within the NA and by extension the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN)’.

It will be recalled that in October last year, 25 soldiers and an officer, drawn from various formations within the 82 Division, which Area of Responsibility (AoR) covers the entire South East States and Cross River, had been made to face court martial trial for various offences.

Maj.-Gen. Hassan Dada, General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division, Nigerian Army, who inaugurated the court martial in Enugu at the time, said it was instituted in pursuant to the Nigerian Armed Forces Act. According to him, court martial is one of the vehicles used by the military to instill discipline among its personnel, and that the accused could not be tried summarily without a duly constituted court martial to give them fair hearing.

The court martial has one Col. Usman Ahmad as president, and a Judge Advocate,
Capt. S. A Sadiq to advise the panel in the cause of the proceedings.

The online news medium in a report yesterday, however, expressed concern that there was a deliberate effort to convict soldiers of southern extraction, while those from northern Nigeria were allowed to go free.

The report alleged that two Nigerian soldiers, Pte Usman Shonva and another identified simply as Audu, who were being court martialed for murder have been freed and re-absorbed into service.

While Shonva allegedly shot and killed one of his course mates in Ohafia, Abia State in 2022, Audu was accused of killing a Togolese national and one other person in Anambra State.

According to the report, apart from Shonva and Audu, some soldiers from the Northern region who were charged for arms dealing and other minor offences were also discharged and acquitted while those from other regions with even minor offences remained in detention.

Refuting these allegations, Nwachukwu explained that the composition of the Court Martial was not based on regional representation, rather, the membership of the court was diverse, with personnel drawn from various regions of the country.

“It is exigent to note that the President of the Court Martial is of northern extraction, while the Judge Advocate is from the South. Additionally, 60 per cent of the Court Martial members are of Southern extraction, demonstrating a fair and balanced representation, even though religion and ethnicity are not major focal criteria in the decision making process of the NA”, he said.

He clarified further that the decision of a Court Martial is collective and based on evidence presented during the trial. The said Court Martial tried the personnel, irrespective of their ethnic and religious affiliations and the outcome was determined strictly based on the evidence presented.

Specifically, citing the case of Pte Usman Shonva, Nwachukwu said the soldier was discharged and acquitted because evidence revealed that there were other soldiers at the scene of the incident, any of whom could have fired the shot that killed the dead soldier.

The Army spokesman further emphasized that the NA does not task its personnel (including for court martial membership) on a regional basis in order to achieve “national spread”, adding that
it is a composite national institution and not an ethnic militia.

“It (NA) will therefore not bite the odious bait being dangled to induce splintering along sectional, ethnic and religious fissures. The court martial proceedings were conducted in a fair and unbiased manner. It is advisable therefore, that the concerned online media refrains from peddling misinformation capable of engendering disaffection and disharmony among NA personnel, other services and security personnel”, Nwachukwu said, while urging the public to note the true picture and discountenance the false report published by the online media platform, as “continued spread of the misinformation will only serve the ulterior motive of the author, which is to cause disharmony in the NA”.

He averred that the NA is committed to upholding justice, equity and discipline within its ranks, and will continue to ensure that all personnel are treated fairly and in accordance with the law.

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