Twelve Nigerian soldiers have been sentenced to death for mutiny after they fired shots at their commanding officer in the restive Northeast city of Maiduguri on May 14, this year.
A nine-member military tribunal in Abuja convicted the soldiers following the incident in May when shots were fired at the commanding officer of the Nigerian Army 7 Division, which is saddled with the responsibility of fighting the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
Court president, Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, a major general, said the sentences were subject to confirmation by Nigeria’s military authorities, adding that there was no doubt on the gravity of the offence.
The soldiers were found guilty of criminal conspiracy, mutiny, attempted murder, insubordination to a particular order and false accusation.
The legal team of the convicts, however, pleaded with the court martial to temper justice with mercy, as they reeled out pathetic stories about the family backgrounds of the convicted servicemen.
The defence team argued that giving them maximum sentence would do more harm than good, adding that it would increase the agony of their dependants.
Witnesses said the soldiers became unruly and threw stones at an officer when he arrived and shots were fired into the air. Mohammed then had to take cover as they pointed their guns at him but he was not injured.
Nigeria’s army has been under tremendous pressure to put a lasting end to the five-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and render several thousand homeless, as well as seen the insurgents hoist their flags in some villages in the restive Northeast in recent times.
Military sources have said soldiers in recent times have complained of a lack of adequate weapons and equipment to fight the insurgents.
Eighteen soldiers in total, from the rank of private to corporal, were charged. While 12 were sentenced to death, one was given 28 days’ hard labour on another count and five were acquitted. All pleaded not guilty.