By Kingsley OMONBI, Abuja
RESPITEÂ Â may come the way ofÂ jailedÂ 27 soldiers for mutiny by the members of the Nigerian Army in Akure and the wave of criticisms that followed the outcome of the General Court Martial which tried the returnee UN Peacekeepers.
However,Â a new dawn seems to have arrived in the force with the Chief of Army staff, Lt. General Abdurahman Dambazau saying the 28 wounded ECOMOG soldiers, who rioted in Egypt during their medical treatment in the 1990s, for non-payment of their allowances, and were later tried and jailed by the army but won their appeal at the supreme court have been reinstated.
According to Dambazu, the era of disobedience of court orders by the Army is over. Speaking against the backdrop of criticisms by Judges and lawyers at the Nigerian Army Law Seminar in Abuja which centered on challenges to effective discharge of Nigerian Army responsibilities in line with the rule of law and human rights regime, the army boss said,Â â€œThe Army believes in the rule of law. But one thing Nigerians should know is that the military justice system rests on the tripod.â€
Dambazau had lastMonday, also said the reaction of the general public, particularly the learned society to some activities in the Nigerian Army in the last one year has revealed that there is a wide judicial gap between the Military Justice System and the Nigerian Judicial System.
Dambazau, who was a law teacher for about five years at the Ahmadu Bello University, also lamented the present situation where no Nigerian University teaches Military Law noting that it was not only disturbing. it left practitioners with little choice but to attain their skills only the practical experience.
Speaking on the theme, â€œChallenges to Effective Discharge of Nigerian Army Responsibilities in Line with the Rule of Law and Human Rights Regimeâ€, DambazauÂ said the return to democratic government and constitutional rule has further enhanced the military desire to continue to abide by rule of law.
Gen. Danbazzau noted that part of the army problem is that they mess up their investigations. He admonished the provost corps to always investigate their cases properly, as that is the only way their cases can stand the test of time, even when challenged at the appellate courts.
Regretting that some Commanding Officers take delight in trial without investigations which always caused embarrassment to the Army when such soldiers appeal against their convictions, the Army chief advised that it is not in every case that an officer should tryÂ soldiers as there are other punitive and disciplinary ways to follow.
Citing an example, Dambazau said there was an incident in the past, when an officer was charged for some offences and was recommended for trial. At the end of trial, the court martial found the officer not guilty.
However, the authorities that set up the court martial were not pleased with the judgment and consequently retired the president of the court, the prosecutor, the judge advocate and the defence counsel; though he assured that such cannot happen in the Army again.