By Taye Obateru
Jos—The Special Court Martial inaugurated by General Officer Commanding, GOC, Three Armoured Division, Jos, Maj.-Gen. Sunday Idoko, to probe former Commander of the 33 Artillery Brigade, Bauchi, Brig.-Gen. Muraina Raji, over the escape of two Boko Haram suspects from the detention facility commenced proceedings, yesterday, with a fresh charge that he allegedly converted N387,000 belonging to the Nigerian Army.
President of the court, Maj.-Gen. John Zaruwa read out the fresh allegation at the proceedings which was dominated by arguments on the membership of the panel by Judge Advocate, Lt. Col. Bernard Okorie.
Mr. Femi Falana, leading three other lawyers, appeared for the accused. He objected to the new charge and advanced lengthy argument on why the judge advocate should not participate in the trial.
Although the court overruled the objection to the membership of the panel, it upheld Raji’s objection to the membership of Brig. Gen. Agboola Robinson who was replaced with Brig. Gen. B.T. Ogini.
In overruling Falana’s argument on Okorie’s membership, the court held that having not participated in the investigations that led to Raji’s trial, his membership would not influence the court
Falana who told the court that he was aware that the accused officer raised an objection to the membership of two members of the panel last week and that the President of the Court had graciously granted one of his objections put up spirited argument against the judge advocate citing sections of the Rules of Procedure of the Army.
He said: “Having regard to the role of the Judge Advocate, under Sections 80 & 81 of the Rules of Procedures of the Army, it is the duty of the Judge Advocate particularly as outlined in Section 80. He is required, for instance, to advise the court about its constitution and any defect of the charge. Now, the only fear of the accused officer is that the Judge Advocate as a member of this Division, Judge Advocate of this Division, took part in the investigation giving legal advice, he will not be in a position to advise.”
There was a mild drama during the sitting when journalists were ordered to leave the venue of the sitting, a move which was resisted until the Assistant Director, Army Pubic Relations for the division, Lt-Col. Andy Idachaba, was called in after which it was agreed that journalists should go for accreditation if they wanted to cover the proceedings.