Army denies freeing northern soldiers facing trial

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The Nigerian Army has refuted claims of favouritism towards soldiers of northern origin in the trial of erring personnel in Enugu State.

Twenty-five soldiers and an officer were court-martialed at the 82 Division of the army for various offences in October 2023.

But there were allegations that two soldiers from the North being tried for murder had been freed and re-absorbed into service, while their counterparts from the South were being convicted.

One of the soldiers alleged to have been favoured was identified as Pte Usan Shonva.

However, reacting to the allegation in a statement on Saturday, the Director, Army Public Relations, Maj. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, accused those behind the allegation of trying to cause disunity.

The statement reads in part, “The Nigerian Army has noted the appalling misinformation being circulated by an online media platform, that some allegedly aggrieved soldiers who were recently arraigned before a Court Martial in 82 Division, Enugu, expressed concern that there was a deliberate effort to convict soldiers of southern extraction, while those from northern Nigeria were allowed to go free.

“Contrary to the misleading report being circulated to cause disharmony within the NA and by extension the Armed Forces of Nigeria, the NA wishes to clarify and unequivocally aver that the report is entirely bereft of any strand of truth and ultimately aimed at disparaging the current leadership of the NA in particular and the AFN in general, using the instrumentality of ethnic and religious bigotry.”

Onyema said the personnel on the court martial were drawn from the various geo-political zones.

He said, “Notably, the composition of the court martial was not based on regional representation, rather, the membership of the court was diverse, with personnel drawn from various regions of the country.

“It is exigent to note that the President of the Court Martial is of northern extraction, while the Judge Advocate is from the South. Additionally, 60 per cent of the court martial members are of southern extraction, demonstrating a fair and balanced representation, even though religion and ethnicity are not major focal criteria in the decision-making process of the NA.”

Onyema further noted that the verdicts of the court martial were based on evidence during the trial, adding that Shonva was able to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt which led to his acquittal.

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