The military authorities have put on trial a total of 97 army personnel, made up of 15 officers and 82 junior officers for offences ranging from mutiny, assault and Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL).
Other offences brought against the soldiers include house breaking; conduct prejudicial to good orders and service discipline and offences relating to service propriety among others.
The latest trial is coming on the heels of the recent sentencing of 12 soldiers to death for mutiny.
In his inaugural address at the court’s sitting in Abuja on Thursday, the President of the all military General Court Martial, Brig-Gen. Musa Yusuf, said the court would be guided by the principles of justice and fair hearing.
He assured that the accused persons would also be given the facilities and conditions necessary for the proper defence of their cases.
“In line with the provisions of Section 35(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), one of you shall be presumed innocent by the court until it is proved otherwise”, Gen. Yusuf stated.
He continued: “Let me further assure you that the GCM will base its decisions and findings only on the facts presented before it,” adding that the court would not be influenced by extraneous forces.
“In consonance with the desire of this GCM to do justice in this case, we shall take cognizance of the postulation of late Justice (Chukwudifu) Oputa that justice is a three-way traffic.
“That is justice for the accused persons, justice for the victim and justice for the state. We intend to patiently and painstakingly listen to all evidence that will be brought before this court to ensure that no innocent person is convicted”.
Among the accused persons were four Lieutenant Colonels – SS Tilawan, DB Danzang, IC Ogamanya and SU Abubakar. Others were: Major II Sakaba; Captains. M Hamadikko, Z Alhaji, MB Abdullahi and SY Musa.
Those in the rank of Lieutenant were – T Garba, F Ogunleke, A Abdullahi, IM Okoro and D Wunuji; with 2nd Lt. JM Uweh. The rest were in the rank and file.
The president of the GCM assured that the trial would be conducted and concluded without undue delay, to prevent the accused persons from suffering the psychological trauma associated with protracted litigations.
“In line with this, I wish to appeal to both the prosecution and defence counsel to prepare their cases in earnest in other to assist the accused persons and this GCM in ensuring un-delayed justice.
“I also wish to appeal to the counsel on both sides to keep to the timing of this court and avoid asking for unnecessary adjournments so that the sincere intention of this court could be achieved.
“Finally, I wish to appeal to the members of the press that in the interest of national security, the accused persons, patriotism and justice, to be fair and objective in their reports on all issues concerning this trial”, he stated.