Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Debo Adeniran, in this interview with Senior Correspondent, EKENE OKORO, says the death sentence passed on 12 soldiers accused of mutiny is barbaric and would cause more harm than good in the quest by the Nigeria Defence system to win the war against the Boko Haram. Excerpts:
Twelve Nigerian soldiers were recently sentenced to death for mutiny and other offences by a military court martial. Do you see capital punishment as justice well served in this regard?
Capital punishment has become barbaric in a civilised world and it is no longer acceptable by committee of civilised nations. Ordinarily, as a human rights advocate, I wouldn’t want anybody to use death as a punishment for anything whatsoever. This is because there is a tendency for the man adjudicating over a case to make mistakes or be misled and there is no way a life taken can be restored if a mistake is discovered to have been made. So, that is why I personally wouldn’t allow anyone’s life to be taken, no matter the circumstance.
However, you look at what is happening within the polity and one may be tempted to think that death penalty could have been appropriate for certain categories of offenders, especially those who committed man’s inhumanity against man. A few persons have committed heinous crimes and have taken several lives indirectly and they are given state pardon. I am talking about those who have committed massive corruption crimes like the former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamaisegha, and Mohammed Abacha, son of late Sanni Abacha, and have been forgiven their sins, even when they have not re-compensated.
So, if Alamaisegha had been shot because he was guilty of the offence and nobody has proven that there was a mistake, in such cases, such people will not benefit from the proceeds of their fraud or their crime against humanity. But, we are not advocating for that because we still believe that nemesis will still catch up with those who escaped punishment for the heinous crimes committed against humanity and those who collaborated with them. What in the end of the day will be appropriate is that anybody who is collaborating to save the neck of any criminal from receiving adequate punishment or those who give them reprieve, should be waiting for further judgment, maybe when they leave position of power that gave them the opportunity to forgive those who are not supposed to be forgiven. We recommend life imprisonment for the highest offence for everybody and they should be productive to the society even behind bars so that they don’t waste away.
But the military said the death sentence was in line with the rules guiding their operations and the Senate also stressed that the judgment was in the best interest of the Nigeria army? Do you agree?
We don’t believe that the offence committed is in the best interest of Nigeria. The Nigerian Army hierarchy may see it in their own best interest, it couldn’t have been in the best interest of members in the rank and file of Nigeria Army, because, some soldiers who dogmatically obey some of these orders have being killed by the insurgents, especially when they had information that the insurgents have laid ambush for them and their commanders insisted that they should still travel, even when they know that they don’t have the superior firepower the insurgents have.
So, it is the ego of the commanding hierarchy that is being safeguarded and not the interest of Nigerians. It’s those who would defend Nigerians in the battle field that are being defeated, those who do not have a voice, but are more useful than those who are commanding them. They are demoralising other cadres in the Army and other services that they don’t have to defend their rights even when they are at the midst of death.
Basically, it is unreasonable for the Army hierarchy to say that because they protested against somebody who was pushing them into valley of death that they deserve. So, if they were in the war front and they were not killed, how appropriate will it be for them to be killed outside the war front? It will demoralise others, because it means that if the Nigeria Defence system intends to go for further war, they might have to rely on those in the commanding file because those in the rank and file would have been demoralised.
At the stage we are, we should be encouraging those at the war front even with the inefficient weapons provided for them they still manage war against those who possess sophisticated weapons. This means the soldiers are doing it out of sheer patriotism; they should be compensated rather than being punished. As a matter of fact, the Commanding General that gave them wrong command ought to have been brought to book earlier to shore up the psyche of those still in the war front.
These soldiers have protested that all the budgetary allocation meant for them didn’t get to them and it has been confirmed at different levels, if that is the case, they don’t need to add salt to their injury; they should be pampered than being punished.
So you would support the call that the president should intervene and perhaps grant them presidential pardon?
I would say yes. Every right thinking person should intervene at this stage because if they continue like this, they would only experience more desertion. Fighting forces will be running to neighbouring countries and seeking asylum there, rather than be led into their unwarranted death by careless and ruthless commanders. So, it means that it is necessary for the President as a matter of urgency, if he is not working hands in gloves with those that they claim they are fighting, because from the commanding pattern, it’s almost evident that the Nigeria defence system is not willing to win the war against Boko Haram. The careless way they are handling the insurgency and the lackadaisical attitude to the welfare and wellbeing of our own soldiers.
So, if indeed they want to win the war, they should show it to us by encouraging those who have volunteered their limbs and lives to fight that war rather than harass or intimidate them with death penalty.