A military court sitting in Abuja last Monday found 13 out of the 18 soldiers standing trial for mutiny and other offences guilty. Twelve of the convicted soldiers were sentenced to death; five were discharged and acquitted while the remaining
one was jailed for 28 days, with hard labour, after finding them guilty of criminal conspiracy, mutiny, attempt to commit murder, insubordination to a particular order and false accusation. The soldiers had on May 14, 2014, fired shots at the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the newly created 7th Division of Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Mohammmed, in Maiduguri. The act is viewed in the military law as mutiny.
The significance of this trial is not lost on Nigerians. It reinforces the need for discipline in the Nigerian armed forces. It was designed to inculcate Spartan discipline in the armed forces. Behaviours like disobedience to constituted authority, such as threatened or actual mutiny, threatened coups d’état, are all criminal offences punishable by either long terms of imprisonment or even death in the Nigerian Armed Act.
The verdict of the seven-man Court-Marshal is particularly important in view of the fact that indiscipline would seem to have crept into the various ranks of the armed forces. We recall that only a few weeks ago, wives of some military officers publicly protested against sending their husbands to the war front alleging that they were ill-equipped. It is difficult to dissociate the husbands of such women from those protests. Doubtless, they had full knowledge of their wives’ protests. Those protests by those women were all signs and acts of rife indiscipline in the army.
Recently, it was announced that some 480 soldiers deserted the army, broke from their ranks and found themselves in the Republic of Cameroon, where they were apprehended and disarmed by the Cameroonian gendarmes. That singular act by the soldiers was a veritable opprobrium on the Nigerian military and on the Nigerian nation, just as it was an act of cowardice, indiscipline, and want of patriotism on the part of the deserters. It is not clear what action has been taken against those cretins so far.
Not a few Nigerians believed that the great Nigerian Army and all other members of the security forces would have confronted the Boko Haramites much more vigorously and more squarely than is the case at the moment, but for what they believe is noisome indiscipline in the various ranks of the armed forces. The sentence of these 12 soldiers to death and others to various terms of imprisonment will definitely serve as a deterrent to others of their ilk.
The above notwithstanding, we appeal to the Federal Government, particularly the Ministry of Defence, to motivate our soldiers to enable them to fight successfully to keep this nation together. There have been rumours of financial improprieties and malfeasance on the part of the defence authorities. Billions of Naira is budgeted for the Ministry of Defence on a yearly basis not only to make life worth living for all those who swore to lay down their lives in the interest of corporate Nigeria but also to acquire modern fighting equipment for the armed forces. It is difficult to understand how these monies are expended or disbursed by the top-notchers of the Defence ministry. In view of the colossal sums of money budgeted for the Ministry of Defence on an annual basis, it is difficult to understand why the military complains of old or inadequate equipment and why the officers and men of the Armed Forces are not adequately catered for and motivated to their work. This explains why we are in full accord with the House of Reps’ decision to summon the Minister of Defence to account for the budgets of his ministry.
If there is one institution that should be shielded from the crass corruption that has become the hallmark of other establishments, it is the military. Corruption breeds indiscipline, and any nation that has reached the level where indiscipline pervades its armed forces is playing with fire. The need to rein in indiscipline and disorder in the armed forces cannot be over-emphasized.