Army denies ‘special’ treatment of soldiers of Northern extraction

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By Emmanuel Obisue

Nigerian Army has dismissed allegations of special treatment of soldiers of Northern extraction over those from other regions of the country, especially the South.

A publication which had recently gone viral, alleged that some supposedly aggrieved soldiers who were recently arraigned before a Court Martial in 82 Division, Enugu, expressed concern that there was a deliberate effort to convict soldiers of Southern extraction, while those from Northern Nigeria were allowed to go free.

Responding in a statement at the weekend, the Army said the report is misleading, and is aimed at fanning the embers of ethnic and religious bigotry.

“Contrary to the misleading report being circulated to cause disharmony within the NA and by extension the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN), the NA wishes to clarify and unequivocally aver that the report is entirely bereft of any strand of truth and ultimately aimed at disparaging the current leadership of the NA.

“Notably, the composition of the Court Martial was not based on regional representation, rather, the membership of the court was diverse, with personnel drawn from various regions of the country. It is exigent to note that the President of the Court Martial is of northern extraction, while the Judge Advocate is from the South. Additionally, 60 percent of the Court Martial members are of Southern extraction, demonstrating a fair and balanced representation, even though religion and ethnicity are not major focal criteria in the decision making process of the NA.

“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 NA 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 emphasized, that the NA does not task its personnel (including for court martial membership) on a regional basis in order to achieve “national spread”.

“The NA is a composite national institution and not an ethnic militia. It will therefore not bite the odious bait being dangled to induce splintering along sectional, ethnic and religious fissures. The court martial proceedings were conducted in a fair and unbiased manner. It is advisable therefore, that the concerned online media refrains from peddling misinformation capable of engendering disaffection and disharmony among NA 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 NA,” the statement issued by Major General Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Public Relations read.