Army sentences soldier to death for killing five civilians

One soldier has been sentenced to death while others are to serve various  jail terms following a judgment delivered yesterday by  the General Court Martial  of 7 Division Nigeria Army sitting in Maiduguri,  Borno State.

The trial followed investigation into alleged human rights abuse by troops of Operation Lafiya Dole on members of the public.

Delivering his judgments, the President of the Court Martial, Brigadier General Gbenga Olusegun Adesina, explained  that the offences were  contrary to Nigerian Army’s Rules of Engagement (ROE) as well as Nigerian Laws and Geneva Conventions which Nigeria is signatory to, stressing that “ the Nigerian Army, as a professional army, holds these laws in high esteem.”

Lance Corporal John Godwin who is to face execution, was charged with murder, punishable under Section 106 (a) of Armed Forces Acts (Cap A20), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, for killing five rescued civilians in Yamteke town of Borno State in November, 2015.

The court availed that the civilians were earlier rescued by troops of the soldier’s battalion and were taken for investigation when Cpl John Godwin  shot five to death.

The deceased, according to him, include Saleh Bello, Ibrahim Bello, Abba Ali, Abubakar Musa and Isa Garba aged between 17 and 22.

“Godwin has run afoul of human rights violations and the rules of engagement while fighting Boko Haram. You’re guilty of murder as charged before this court martial and sentenced you to death,” said Adesina.

The courts also slammed  jail sentences on other soldiers  for various offences, including  manslaughter and  illegal possession of fire arms and ammunition.

Sergeant Innocent Ototo, bagged life imprisonment on charge of  manslaughter after he allegedly tortured and killed  a 13-year-old boy, Yakubu Isa,  whom  he alleged   stole his phone.  The incident happened at Zamanbari area of Maiduguri metropolis in Borno State.

Two other soldiers,  Lance Corporal Benjamin Osage and Private Sunday Onwe, were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment each for offences bordering on manslaughter and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

“Sunday Awe, a private soldier attached to 112 Task Force Battalion, Mafa in Borno State, was also sentenced to 20 months imprisonment for unlawful prossession of 1, 339 rounds of ammunition,” Brig. Gen. Adesina said.

He added that Private Bitrus Yunana and Lance Corporal Ayuba Jonathan were also sentenced to five years jail term each for unlawful possession of 925 and 450 rounds of ammunition on August 2, 2016.

He said, however, that the death and imprisonment sentences were subject to the confirmation of sections 141, paragraph two and 152 of paragraph 1 of the Armed Forces Act.

The court martial was  adjourned  to January 11, 2018.