Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has written to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to pardon 70 convicted Nigerian soldiers.
Falana, who defended 58 of the 70 soldiers, said their dismissal from the army was ill-advised by the military authorities.
The dismissed military personnel were tried by General Courts-Martial and convicted of mutiny between 2013 and 2014.
“In prosecuting the war on terror, the Federal Government deployed thousands of ill-equipped and ill-motivated members of the armed forces to the North-east region to fight the well-armed insurgents from 2013-2014″, Falana said.
He noted that a large number of soldiers who survived the insurgents’ onslaught deserted the military.
Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), explained, in his letter dated to President Buhari, that the convicted “troops demanded arms and armament from the military authorities”.
The legal luminary faulted the court-martial for refusing to appreciate that the demand for weapons by the soldiers was justified under section 179 of the Armed Forces Act, (Cap A20) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
According to him, the law permits a soldier, rating or aircraftman, to make a complaint to his commanding officer, and that he shall not be penalised for having made a complaint so far as the complaint does not contravene any provisions of the Act.
The lawyer also said the court martial’s decision of convicting and sentencing the soldiers was against judicial precedent.
He said the decisions failed to respect the Court of Appeal’s 2003 judgment in the case of Segun Oladele, a corporal, and 22 others versus the Nigerian Army quashing the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on the appellants for protesting against the injustice meted out to them by the military authorities.
The human rights lawyer reminded the President of the pardon being granted repentant terrorists by the government, arguing that “the soldiers who were convicted of mutiny for demanding for weapons to fight such terrorists deserve to be granted pardon”.
In urging the President to pardon the soldiers, Falana pointed out that a presidential panel to probe arms procurement for the military had established instances of diversion of public funds against top military officers.
He, therefore, said the demand of the soldiers for weapons to fight the insurgents was in order.