Nigerian Army And Evils Of Court Martial
Nigeria News examine the past evils committed by the military in the name of eliminating coup plotters.
Beginning from 1966, Nigeria has lost some of its brilliant soldiers to coup d’état. Many were killed after they were found guilty by court martial in consequent coups.
The Military coup of 1966 in which Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi toppled the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa was a bloody one that erased both the soldiers and the civilians.
Since then, Nigeria had continue to change government through coup until 1979 when a civil rule was ushered in. It never lasted for five years before the soldiers struck again in 1983 and would not step aside until 1999.
In every coup, plotters were killed through this special court. However, investigation had shown that not all those arrested for coup plotting were involved in the act but they faced court martial, found guilty and killed.
Names like Lieutenant Colonel Buka Suka Dimka, Major General Iliya Bisala and Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu ring bell in the history of coup d’etat in Nigeria. They were ferocious gallant soldiers who dared death to get power.
One will not forget Major General Mamman Jiya Vatsa, a writer and fine soldier. He was assassinated by his closest friend and the former Head of State Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida for allegedly plotting to overthrow him.
He was found guilty by the court martial. The late Head of State Gen. Sani Abacha’s administration also found some of his predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his late deputy, Gen. Musa Yar’Adua guilty of plotting coup to topple his government.
The two were sentenced to life imprisonment. Though they were to be killed silently by the Abacha junta. Only Obasanjo survived the plot to eliminate him. Yar’Adua was poisoned in the prison, he never came out alive.
Nigerian military government has a way of eliminating those that could threaten them. Beside the fact that the military, with its decrees had unceremoniously sacked many of its top brass, the unlucky ones are indicted with coup plot and erased from the army.
To Mr. Johnson Esezoobo, a legal practitioner, the idea of setting up a special court by soldiers was to eliminate those who could threaten the military government, adding that the present civilian government must not try it.
He explained further that to establish any court, it must be subordinate to the high court and the whole idea of special court arises when there are issues with the court to be established in the state.
He said historically, when the military came, they opted for the tribunal process which resulted into bloodshed.
He said in 1976 during Dimka coup, a special court was set up and a colonel who had nothing to do with the coup was killed; a few weeks later she was told that her husband was wrongly convicted and she committed suicide.
He also said ten years later, Vatsa was killed, 20 years later, in 2006, Barley came out and said they killed Vatsa in error; there was no evidence against him.
He said in 1995, there was a special court set up for the Ogoni in which Justice Attah was used to murder the Ogoni men, which resulted into the suspension of Nigeria from commonwealth.
He revealed that when President Buhari was sworn in 2015, he wrote a letter to him, reminding him that special court was what ruined his purposeful military regime of 1983/1984.
He said special court in Buhari’s regime led to “undue high handedness” which general Babangida took advantage of.
He also said, in his letter to President Buhari, he proposed that the problems in the court should be looked at, infrastructural problems, the judges, and advised him to set up a committee to look into all the problems holistically, and not cluster justice.
He said when there is a problem; Nigerians only look for a way of punishment instead of a way to prevent the problem itself.