The story has been reported of how a Nigeria Army General Court Martial on Tuesday 12 January 2021, sentenced a soldier, Azunna Mmaduabuchi, to death by firing squad for killing an officer and the reason given for condemning the soldier, according to the court-martial, is because he failed to provide a convincing defence in his testimony.
According to the story, Mr Maduabuchi had in July 2020 reportedly opened fire on one Lieutenant Babankaka Ngorgi which killed him instantly. However, the reported trial that led to the conviction of the condemned did not indicate if the soldier had any personal grudges with the officer prior to the murder.
Despite the fact that officer Maduabuchi, a private soldier pleaded guilty, and disclosed that his actions were not intended and was purely accidental, News outlet, PREMIUM TIMES was however informed on the contrary by inside military sources that the condemned soldier had once gone on AWOL which led to the stoppage of his salary for about six months.
According to the source, it was revealed that the soldier in question, who was serving at the 202-battalion in Bama, pleaded with the late Lieutenant Ngorgi, who was his Adjutant, to allow him travel to the state capital to sort out his salary issues, but his requests were consistently rejected and It was not ascertained if it was the issue that led to grievances from the condemned soldier against his deceased colleague.
Meanwhile Eight prosecution witnesses told the court-martial headed by Arikpo Ekubi, as president of the court, that they saw the condemned soldier at the scene of the crime clinging unto an AK47 rifle while the late Adjutant lay in a pool of his blood.
In a statement given by one of the PWs said he saw the private soldier who had earlier matched past him, without regarding him as his senior as he walked up to the deceased adjutant who was at that time making a call and summarily shot at him.
“After opening a rapid action fire on him, the soldier turned to face me and then raised his hands to say” I have killed him”, the PW said.
The condemned soldier, according to the court-martial, failed to provide a convincing defence in his testimony.
“The accused person gave a conflicting narration of what happened, the President of the Court Martial said while ruling on the case
“In his written statement the soldier said his rifle went off while he was passing by the deceased officer. And while asked in court to demonstrate how he was carrying his rifle; he told the court that the rifle went off while he was fetching water to drink.”
The court, in her argument insisted that that rifles only respond to what it is asked to do. As such, the court-martial said Mr Mmaduabuchi deliberately killed the officer because he ran straight to the Adjutant after returning from a patrol and opened fire on him at close range.
“He held his rifle at rapid-fire and emptied nine rounds of ammunition on the deceased officer, N/16439 who was the Adjutant of 202 battalions,” the Court-Martial President said
“The act of murder is a heinous crime against humanity; it offends the tenets of military regimentation and professionalism; you betrayed the truth and confidence reposed in you by the Nigerian army to show dignity and respect for human life.”
Despite all the appeals a plea for leniency by the defence counsel, the court-martial insisted that the act of murder had a mandatory punishment as clearly stipulated in Section 106 of the Armed Forces Act.
“On this note, the sentence of this court-martial on you, 16NA/75/1343, Trooper Azunna Mmaduabuchi, for the offence of murder is to suffer death as provided in section 106 of the Armed Forces Act. And this sentence is to be carried out by firing squad.,” the President of the Court-Martial ruled.
Meanwhile in other twist of events the court-martial has also sentenced four soldiers to various years of jail time for manslaughter by torturing a civilian to death for using a battery for a generator at an officer’s mess without their permission.
Another soldier, Private Mohammed Kuru, was dismissed and sentenced to three years in prison for firing an assault rifle at a civilian wedding which led to the accidental death of an 11-year- old boy, Adamu Musa Kolo.
A Lance Corporal was also demoted by the court-martial for assaulting a civilian.
All the sentences are subject to the confirmation of the military authority.
Many people who followed the above stories of indiscretions shown by some of these military officers, are stunned beyond expressions and are also in strong support, to a large extent the punitive measures put in place to serve as deterrent for crime like these.
Gift Joseph Okpakorese