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Army dismisses allegation of bias in trial of soldiers



The Nigerian Army has dismissed allegation of ethnic bias in the trial of soldiers recently arraigned before a Court Martial in Enugu State.

The Director of Army Public Relations, Maj.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, made the clarification in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.

He was reacting to a report on the deliberate effort to convict soldiers of Southern extraction while those from the North were allowed to go free.

Nwachukwu said that the Nigerian Army was a composite national institution and not an ethnic militia.

He added that the report claimed that some aggrieved soldiers arraigned before the court martial expressed concern over the conduct of the panel.

The spokesman insisted that the report was being circulated to cause disharmony within the army and by extension the Armed Forces.

Nwachukwu said: “The report is entirely bereft of any strand of truth and ultimately aimed at disparaging the current leadership of the army in particular and the armed forces in general, using the instrumentality of ethnic and religious bigotry.

“The composition of the court martial was not based on regional representation but was diverse, with personnel drawn from various regions of the country.

“The President of the Court was of Northern extraction, while the Judge Advocate was from the South.

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“Also 60 percent of the court members were of Southern extraction. This demonstrates a fair and balanced representation, even though religion and ethnicity are not major focal criteria in the decision-making process of the army.

“The decision of a court-martial is collective and based on evidence presented during the trial.

“The said court-martial tried the personnel, irrespective of their ethnic and religious affiliations and the outcome was determined strictly based on the evidence presented.

“In espousing the position of the Nigerian Army in the cases mentioned in the report, taking that of Pte. Usman Shonva for instance, wherein evidence revealed that there were other soldiers at the scene of the incident, who also fired their weapons.

“Hence, the court based on this finding among others, reached the conclusion that the shot that killed the dead soldier could have been fired by any of the soldiers at the scene, thus, leading to his discharge and acquittal.

“It must be emphasised that the Nigerian Army does not task its personnel (including for court martial membership) on a regional basis in order to achieve national spread.”

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