Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has described as “genocidal” the recent sentencing of 54 soldiers to death by an army court martial.
While strongly condemning the death sentence, Falana said the convicted soldiers, the second set to be condemned to death, had been sent on a suicide mission by army authorities ill-equipped and poorly motivated.
In a statement released on Thursday, December 18, Falana said the trial was done in such a way to give the false impression that the verdict was fair and just.
“The soldiers were in the SF 111 Batallion which has 174 instead of 750 soldiers. The soldiers in the Batallion were neither equipped nor motivated. They are young men whose ages range between 21 and 25. Most of them joined the army in 2012. With little or no training whatsoever they were deployed to fight the dreaded Boko Haram sect,” Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, said.
The human rights lawyer also accused the army hierarchy of diverting funds allocated for payment of salaries and allowances of soldiers and for purchase of arms and ammunition.
“Instead of bringing such unpatriotic officers to book, the military authorities have engaged in the diversionary tactics of wasting the lives of innocent soldiers by sentencing them to death without any legal justification,” he said.
He added that, “The soldiers demanded for weapons so as not to lose more officers and men in the circumstance. A few soldiers who embarked on the suicidal mission together with the Commanding Officer were ambushed by the Boko Haram troops.
“When some weapons were made available on August 8, 2014, the soldiers moved to the battlefront, dislodged the satanic Boko Haram sect and liberated their captured colleagues and officers.
“They were commended for their bravery and sacrifice. But for some inexplicable reasons, the army authorities ordered that the soldiers be charged with mutiny for allegedly exposing the armed forces to embarrassment by asking for weapons.
“Thus, 60 soldiers were charged before the court martial led by Brigadier-General M. Yusuf. The charge was however withdrawn against one of them on health ground.”
Falana who was the defense counsel to the convicted soldiers, said that midway into the trial, journalists were shut out of the military court to avoid further embarrassment to the army.