By SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin Cithy
GOVERNOR Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to grant Presidential pardon to the sixty-six soldiers whose death sentences were recently commuted to 10 years imprisonment by the Army Authorities for offences ranging from insubordination behavior to mutiny, among others. Governor Oshiomhole said that based on the strength of the recent revelations on the $2.1 billion funds for arms purchase which was mismanaged by the last administration, the President should, in the spirit of the 2016 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, spare them the jail term but could dismiss them from the Army for their acts of indiscipline.
The Governor made this appeal while delivering his speech at the 2016 Armed Forces Remembrance Day on in Benin City yesterday. The Governor while acknowledging the noble role of the Armed Forces in ensuring peace and the unity of the nation even at the cost of paying the supreme sacrifice said it would amount to injustice if the Military Personnel who were sent to the war front without arms were made to wallow in prison while those who diverted the funds meant for Arms purchases are being granted bail by the law courts.
The Governor said: “I ask Edo people to stand by our Armed Forces, to support the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to reposition the Armed Forces, to re-kit them but also to revive our economy. The revelation about diversion of funds meant to equip the Armed Forces is not funny and therefore we must all give the President the support he needs to bring to justice those who diverted money meant to secure all of us and convert them to political funds.
“These same people sat in the comfort of their office, looking at their loot and they had the guts to put on trial soldiers who were ill-equipped and were asked to go and commit suicide in the face of Boko Haram. I am happy that the Military have in their wisdom through their own judicial process committed those death sentences to various terms of imprisonment for those soldiers who were involved.
“I am not an apostle or a supporter of indiscipline but I believe it is also a matter of hypocrisy to tie the legs of a young man or a woman and ask him to go and get involved in an Olympic race. If you chain him, how can he run?”
Oshiomhole continued: “I therefore want to lend my voice on behalf of the people of Edo State, that those soldiers at best can be dismissed from the Armed Forces, but they should not be allowed to wallow in prison. The point has been made that money meant for them was shared. If those who shared it are not likely to face death sentence, they even enjoy the liberty of bail from our high court, nothing justifies harsh treatment to the victims of their own executive rascality.
“So, I appeal to President Buhari to use his powers to grant them pardon even if they will not be allowed to retain their uniforms. We all have learnt to be vigilant and to support our Armed Forces.”
While emphasizing the importance and sanctity of our unity, Oshiomhole called on the political class to be mindful of their utterances in the overall interest of the country saying, “I want to use this occasion to appeal to our political class not to allow their personal and selfish interest to override national interest and consideration and make inflammatory statements that questions the unity of our great country. I hold the view that the unity of a nation state cannot be treated the way the unity of voluntary association is done.”
Governor Oshiomhole pledged the government’s continued support for the Armed Forces and the wards of soldiers who paid the supreme price in ensuring the unity of the nation.
He said, “Edo State Government will support the legion with the sum of 10million naira and I will appeal to the legion to particularly show firm support to those widows arising from Boko Haram activities. If there is any of them whose children is in Edo State who are supposed to be in school, in universities and they are not there, because their parents are no more, Edo State Government even at this hour, we are ready to pick up their school fees that they may be able to attend university, colleges of education or polytechnics as the case may be to show that we do care that they died just so that we might survive here.”
Governor Oshiomhole along with other dignitaries later performed the laying of wreaths at the cenotaph of the unknown soldier at the Museum ground, Benin city.