‘We’re not ethnic militia’, Army Denies Alleged Bias in Court Martial of Soldiers

The Nigerian Army has dismissed allegation of ethnic bias in the trial of 25 soldiers that were court-martialled in the 82 Division, Enugu.

The soldiers and one officer were court-martialled for various offences in October 2023.

In a statement on Saturday, Onyema Nwachukwu, director of Army Public Relations, said the Army was a composite national institution and not an ethnic militia.

Nwachukwu was reacting to a report that alleged the conviction of soldiers of southern extraction, while those from the North were freed and reabsorbed into service.

He said the report claimed that some aggrieved soldiers who were arraigned before the court martial expressed the concern.

Nwachukwu noted “misleading report” was being circulated to cause disharmony within the Army and by extension the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

Nwachukwu said the report was untrue and aimed at disparaging the current leadership of the Army through ethnic and religious bigotry.

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

Nwachukwu said the president of the court was of northern extraction while the judge advocate was from the South.

He added that 60 percent of the court members were from the South.

This, according to Nwachukwu, demonstrated a fair and balanced representation, even though religion and ethnicity were not 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.

“The Nigerian Army is a composite national institution and not an ethnic militia.”

Nwachukwu said the court martial proceedings were conducted in a fair and unbiased manner.

He urged the publisher of the report to refrain from peddling misinformation capable of engendering disaffection and disharmony among army personnel, other services and security personnel.

“We urge the public to note the true picture and discountenance the false report published by the online media platform.

“Continued spread of the misinformation will only serve the ulterior motive of the author, which is to cause disharmony in the Nigerian Army.

“The army is committed to upholding justice, equity and discipline within its ranks, and will continue to ensure that all personnel are treated fairly and in accordance with the law”, Nwachukwu said.