World Bulletin / News Desk
Secret courts-martial sentenced 66 of the 70 soldiers to death by firing squad in March 2015 after they were found guilty of attempted murder of a superior officer and mutiny related to soldiers’ refusal to fight Boko Haram.
Last December, the army ordered a review of their case and had the death sentences commuted to penalties of 10 years in jail.
In a letter to the president on Tuesday, the soldiers’ attorney Femi Falana urged the government to pardon the soldiers because an extensive probe of military funding found a massive diversion of money meant for arms purchases and the welfare of troops fighting militants in the northeast.
“Although based on our appeal the authorities of the Nigerian Army have commuted the death sentences passed on the soldiers to 10 years imprisonment, we are compelled to urge Your Excellency to grant them pardon,” according to their attorney.
He said the soldiers were accused of mutiny because they complained about the situation on the front, especially the lack of weapons to prosecute the war.
The lawyer added: “The courts-martial which tried our clients deliberately failed to take cognizance of section 179 of the Armed Forces Act which permits ‘a soldier, rating, or aircraftman to make a complaint to his commanding officer’ and that he shall not be penalized for having made a complaint.”
With Boko Haram at the time capturing vast areas of the region and declaring a so-called Islamic caliphate, hundreds of soldiers had deserted from the army, while reports of troops running away from militants were also rife.