Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal has set aside the conviction of a former Chief of Transformation and Innovation at the Nigerian Army Headquarters, Major General Ibrahim Sani, by a Special Military Court Martial.
Major General Sani was on July 20, 2017 convicted by the Special Military Court on 5 out of the 9 charges bordering on service property, making of false documents and cheating.
Specifically he was found guilty on counts 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8, and was sentenced to a reduction in rank from Major General to Brigadier General, but discharged in counts 5 and 9 of the charges.
Displeased with the judgment, the army general by a notice of appeal, filed on March 3, 2018 challenged all the processes that led to his conviction, the conviction and the sentence handed him by the court martial.
Delivering ruling in the appeal on April 18, 2018, the Court of Appeal however in a unanimous decision voided Sani’s conviction and sentence.
The three-man panel, led by Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya, voided judgment of the court martial on the grounds that the proceedings leading to the conviction and sentence was faulty, adding that Maj. Gen Sani was denied fair hearing in the trial process.
The appellate court said that there was merit in the appeal and consequently allowed it.
The judgment, given on April 18, 2019 is on an appeal, marked: CA/A/791/2017 which arose from four interlocutory rulings and the judgment by the Court Martial, which sat at the Army Headquarters Garrison, Mogadishu Cantonment, Asokoro, Abuja.
The Special Military Court Martial, led by Air Vice Marshal (AVM), Gbum (NAF/1366), gave the rulings and judgment on July 11, 2016; November 1, 2016; April 25, 2017 and July 20, 2017.
The Court of Appeal, while allowing the appeal by Maj. Gen. Sani, said: “The proceedings and judgment of the special court martial in respect of charge No: NA/COAS/GI/39/16 filed before the lower Special Court Martial was set aside.
“An order is made for the retrial of the charges against the appellant by another Special Court Martial.”
Mahmud Magaji (SAN), who led the appellant’s legal team, said: “By this decision, setting aside the judgment of the Special Court Martial, the proceedings, conviction and sentence of the court never existed in the eyes of the law.
“They are null and void. Therefore, the Nigerian Army is obligated to obey the judgment by restoring the appellant to his rank as a Major General with all his benefits and entitlements in the Nigerian Army.”
Maj. Gen. Sani was arraigned on July 4, 2016 on a nine-count charge bordering on service property, making of false documents and cheating punishable under sections 56(2), 66(a), 90(a) and 113(3) of the Armed Forces Act (AFA), CAP A20, LFN, 2004.
The charge was in relation to his alleged role in the management of a large parcel of land allocated to the Nigerian Army in Asokoro, Abuja.
He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and in the course of the arraignment, count 9 was struck out for being duplication of count 3.