Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny

Twelve soldiers in the middle of fighting the Islamist insurgency in north-east Nigeria have been found guilty of mutiny and attempted murder of their commanding officer, and are sentenced to death by firing squad.

The decision was read out on Tuesday by Brigadier General Chukwuemka Okonwo, which found 12 soldiers guilty but five others cleared. One got 28 days in jail with hard labour.

The revolt had begun when a convoy of soldiers had been ordered to drive at night on a world known to be a frequent target for Boko Haram. At first the soldiers refused, saying that it would be a suicide mission, but eventually obeyed and were ambushed by insurgents on 13th May. This was on the road from the town of Chibok, where more than 270 schoolgirls were kidnapped a month ago.

The bodies of the ambushed soldiers were returned to the barracks in the city of Maiduguri, leading to a revolt by the soldiers. They threw stones and even shot at their commanding officer, Major General A Mohammed who survived partly due to taking refuge in an armour plated vehicle.

The fact that the Islamist uprising has continued for five years and the girls still have not been rescued are the signs of Nigeria’s inability both in the military and the government to handle the situation. Soldiers in the Nigerian army told the Association Press how they felt that they were being outgunned by the Boko Haram militants, due to lacking ammunition and supplies and feeling abandoned on the battlefield. Also, because of corruption, millions of dollars meant to go towards fighting the extremists simply goes missing.

The judgment that was issued by the nine-member court martial panel had said the soldiers accused their officers of cowardice and threatened to shoot them.

The panel said “it had considered the gravity of the offence alleged, particularly the attempt to kill the general officer commanding 7 division, Nigerian army, and its likely effect on the counter-insurgency operations in the north-east as well as its implications on national security.”

The judgment did not state what the soldiers had said in their defence during the trial. In fact some journalists were barred from attending, but invited to hear the reading of the verdict and the sentencing.

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