By Oluwafemi Olayinka, Abuja
The Nigerian Army authority on Wednesday arraigned another set of 59 soldiers at the general military court martial holding at the Mogadishu cantonment, Abuja.
The general court martial headed by Brig. General Yusuf Mohammed commenced proceedings as the charges levied against the soldiers were read, ranging from conspiracy to commit mutiny and the refusal to obey orders of their commanding officer, Lt Col. Timothy Opurum, to advance against boko haram insurgents in the ongoing counter terrorism operation in the North east.
The judge advocate, Lt. Col Ukpe Ukpe, who read the charges to the accused soldiers, said the operation in the case before the court was intended to recapture Yelwa, Bellabulini, and Damboa in restive Borno State.
The soldiers, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges levied against them by the Nigerian Army.
The military authorities at were to arraign 60 soldiers for mutiny but one of the soldiers was exempted following a medical report saying that he was seriously sick and would not be able to attend the trial, bringing the total number of soldiers being tried to 59.
The lead prosecutor, Capt. Joseph Nwosu, who brought before the court the case of the ill-health of the 11th accused person, CPL Anthony Simon, noted that the list of accused soldiers would have to be amended to bring down the total number of the soldiers being tried to 59.
All the accused soldiers are being defended by Femi Falana who expressed satisfaction with the court processes.
The general military court martial is to continue proceedings on Thursday, October 16.
It will be recalled that 12 soldiers were last month sentenced to death by firing squad by the military tribunal presided over by Brigadier-General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo.
Their sentence was the climax of a military court martial involving the arraignment of 18 soldiers on a six-count charge for their involvement in a mutiny on May 14, when some aggrieved troops opened fire at a car carrying the Commanding Officer, 7 Division in Maiduguri, Borno State, Major-General Ahmadu Mohammed.
The death sentences handed down by the tribunal was however condemned by the European Union, Trade Union Congress, TUC, and a cross section of Nigerians, who believe the military should commute the death sentences to a less severe one.
The military tribunal outlined charges one to six under which the soldiers where tried including insubordinate behaviour, false accusation, mutiny, absence without leave, AWOL and conduct to the prejudice of service discipline.