By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal yesterday fixed March 15, 2018, to commence hearing on an appeal seeking to quash the judgment of a Special Court Martial of the Nigerian Army that found Major-General Ibrahim Sani, guilty of engaging in land fraud.
The Army panel, which was convened by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, had in a judgment it delivered on July 20, 2017, found the appellant guilty on five out of nine-count charge preferred against him.
The appellant was specifically tried on offences bordering on service property, making of false documents and cheating, punishable under sections 56(2), 66(a), 90(a) and 113(a) of the Armed Forces Act, AFA, Cap A20, LFN, 2004.
As part of his sentence, the appellant was demoted from the rank of Major General to Brigadier General, even as he was ordered to pay N7million, N10 million and N6 million to some officers.
The officers the appellant was directed to pay the monies to, were, Col. Omubo Idoniboye-Obu, Col. M.O. Ihanuwaze and Col. O. P. Sintali, respectively.
The appellant told the court that his demotion was confirmed by the Third Army Council meeting on October 15, 2017.
However, he is praying the appellate court for an order staying the execution of the verdict of the Special Court Martial, pending the hearing and determination of his case.
The de-ranked Major General is equally praying the court to restrain the Respondent (Nigerian Army) by itself and by its servants, agents, officers, employees and or representatives, howsoever and whatsoever called, from implementing, executing, enforcing the judgment of the Special Court Martial, pending the determination of his appeal.
He equally wants the appellate court to restrain the Respondent from implementing a letter from the headquarters of the Nigerian Army, Department of Military Secretary dated November 23, 2017, with the title “Notification of Retirement: Age Ceiling of Rank Brigadier General Ibrahim Sani (N/7361) sent to the applicant, pending conclusion of the appeal.
The appellant is contending that allowing the execution of the judgment would render his case nugatory, as well as, impoverish and make him unable to finance the prosecition of the appeal.
The appellant said he had in the course of the trial before the Special Court Martial, made applications both orally and in writing, challenging the jusidiction of the court martial on the basis of contravention of his right to fair hearing under section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
He said he had also queried the competence of the President and a member of the court martial who he said were of the Nigerian Air Force whose years of service had expired long before the court was constituted.
In his grounds of appeal, the demoted Maj. General told the Court of Appeal that the Court Martial erred in law when it held that his right to fair hearing was not violated, considering that the COAS, Lt. Gen. Buratai who okayed his trial, was not only the confirming authority of the judgment, but also a member of the Army Council who is to approve or disprove the final verdict.