A Nigerian Army court martial on Tuesday in Maiduguri convicted a soldier for an assault on a 10-year old boy and violation of the rules of engagement in the Boko Haram counter-insurgency operation in the North-East of the country.
Staff Sergeant Umar Sule allegedly assaulted the boy (name withheld) at his duty post in Maiduguri and inflicted grievous bodily harm on him, leading to the amputation of the boy's left arm. He is the first to be convicted by a court martial in recent times.
The court also convicted Sgt Sule of violating the rules of engagement by bringing an unauthorized person to one of the Army guard locations in Maiduguri metropolis in late March 2015 contrary to paragraph 2 (z) of the Code of Conduct for troops of Operation Lafiya Dole in the area.
The case was reported to the Army authorities in Borno State by the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), following a complaint by the parents of the boy and the amputation.
Counsel to Sgt Sule, Grema Abba, had pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy since the convict was a first offender and had diligently served the nation and the army for about 26 years, having enlisted into the service in 1990.
“He has served well in both local and foreign operations and has no criminal record,” the defense counsel submitted, a plea which the prosecution counsel, Maj. Nkenna Nyaro did not object to.
The president of the court, Brig-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi said in his ruling that the court had listened to the convict's touching plea for mitigation and looked at various punishments provided by both section 104 (2) (b) of Armed Forces Act CAP 20, the Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, as well as Section 119 of the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 LFN 2004. He said the court had also considered the need to maintain discipline in the Nigerian Army.
“You are therefore sentenced to three years imprisonment and reduction of your rank from Staff Sergeant to private," declared the Court President.
He noted that the sentence was however subject to the confirmation of army authority in consonance with sections 141 (2) and 152 (1) a of the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.