Military Inaugurates Court-martial to Try 70 Soldiers for Misconduct

  •  Says 1,342 Boko Haram fighters surrender

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja with agency reports

Military authorities thursday inaugurated a general court-martial to prosecute 70 military personnel for various offences in the counter-insurgency operations in the North-east.

The inauguration came on the day the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said 1,342 fighters of terrorist group, Boko Haram, had surrendered to the military.

It said 86 child-fighters of the group, who voluntarily surrendered to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole were handed over to the Borno State Government for rehabilitation.

The Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, Brig. Gen. Abdul Khalifa, said the court was inaugurated in accordance with Section 131(2) (d) of the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20 LFN 2004.

Khalifa said the court would exercise its duties within the confines of the law and military regimentation principles.
He added that principles of justice, equity and fairness would guide the proceedings of the court.

Khalifa said the aim was to encourage compliance with ethical standards and promote discipline to ensure the successful implementation of military operations.

“Acts of cowardice, desertion, un-soldierly and other forms of indiscipline have no place in any army executing war,” he said.

The commander, however, enjoined the court members to be fair in discharging their duties.

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters said 1,342 fighters of Boko Haram surrendered to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-east.

A statement by Defence Spokesman, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said 86 child-soldiers were also handed over to the Borno State Government for rehabilitation.

It said it was part of the efforts to ensure that minors and other repentant Boko Haram fighters in the North-east were given the necessary support and opportunity to embrace peace through the auspices of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC).

He said: “The outfit has handed over 86 Boko Haram child-fighters who voluntarily surrendered to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole to the Borno State Rehabilitation Centre in Bulumkutu.”

Defence Headquarters added that following the handover, the repentant child fighters would undergo comprehensive child-care programme sponsored and organised by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in conjunction with Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

“The child fighters who are between ages 10 to 19 are part of over 1,370 Boko Haram fighters who have so far surrendered to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole.

“After a thorough profiling and screening, the minors were considered suitable for the 6 months De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Re-integration (DRR) programme,” it added.

It said arrangements were ongoing to transfer another set of 500 repentant insurgents to Operation Safe Corridor for DRR Programme.

The Defence Headquarters further called on willing members of the terrorist group to lay down their arms and surrender to troops.

“The Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) wishes to use this medium to call on willing Boko Haram fighters to abandon the futile struggle and surrender to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole.

“Those who voluntarily surrender to troops are guaranteed of safety and will benefit from the Operation Safe Corridor de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and re-integration programme.

“The AFN is further committed to its strict adherence to the rules of engagement and other extant laws especially as it relates to minors in conflict situations,” it added.

The handover ceremony was witnessed by the Borno State Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo and UNICEF Official, Mr. Clement Adams.

The duo congratulated the surrendered fighters for laying down their arms and urged them to take advantage of the DRR programme to turn a new leaf and abandon the senseless struggle, the statement said.

Operation Safe Corridor is a Defence Headquarters-led non-kinetic multi-national and multi-agency humanitarian operation conducted in tandem with extant international humanitarian laws to encourage willing and repentant Boko Haram terrorists in the North East to shun violent extremism.

The operation is designed to also de-radicalise, rehabilitate and re-integrate repentant Boko Haram combatants who willingly surrender to troops.

Nwachukwu said the scheme was a global model that enjoyed collaboration and support from local and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as Multi-national Organisations, such as, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department for International Development (DFID), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and North East Regional Initiative (NERI).