Court martial: Three soldiers appeal death sentence

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Three of the 12 soldiers sentenced to death on September 15 by a court martial have challenged the rulling at the Court of Appeal, Abuja.

The men, Igomu Emmanuel, Stephen Clement and Andrew Ngbede  faulted the trial leading to their conviction and urged the court to quash the decision.

They raised 11 grounds of appeal in their case filed for them last Thursday by their lawyer, Godwin Obla (SAN).

The appellants said the charge on which they were tried and convicted “is vague, disjointed, imprecise and incoherent”, adding that they did not understand  it.

They argued that not only were their names not stated on the charge, it also violated Section 36 (6) of the constitution, which entitled an accused to be informed of the details and nature of the offence for which he was charged.

The appellants further argued that the General Court Martial erred in law and came to a perverse decision by convicting them in respect of the offence of conspiracy and failed to consider the defence of  alibi, which they raised, but which was not investigated by the court martial.

“The General Court Martial erred in law and thus occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it disregarded the objection of the defence counsel raised before and at the arraignment of the appellants on the defective nature of the charge brought against them.”

The soldiers said they were charged and convicted at large under Section 114 of the Armed Forces Act and that the charge did not tie the offence they allegedly committed to any of the subsections of Section 114 of the Armed Forces Act.

They said Section 114 did not define the offence of criminal conspiracy as an offence known to law.

The appellants argued that the first count of the charge “is ambiguous, uncertain and defective”, because they were charged under Section 114 of the Armed Forces Act, but punished under Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code Law.

They also faulted the third count of the charge for being “uncertain and defective” because they were charged under Section 95 of the Armed Forces Act, which provided a punishment of life imprisonment if convicted, but were sentenced to death under Section 106 of the Act.

The appellants said the General Court Martial based its decision on an equivocal, indirect, negative, uncorroborated and suspicious circumstantial evidence in convicting them.

They said the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, Maj.-Gen. Ahmadu Mohammed, whom they were accused of attempting to murder, was not invited by the prosecution to give evidence on the alleged attempt on his life.

The appellants also noted that no ballistic evidence was produced to show that it was their shot that hit Maj.-Gen. Mohammed’s car.

They contended that none of the witnesses identified any of them as the person who shot at the GOC’s vehicle, and that the court martial merely relied on circumstantial evidence, which did not lead conclusively and indisputably that any of their shots was the one, if any, that hit the rear right door of the command’s Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal.

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