By Kingsley Nwezeh
Six Nigerian Air Force personnel detailed to provide security for the late Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Barde, may face the death penalty following the guilty verdict pronounced on them by the General Court Martial (GCM) constituted to try them, THISDAY checks have revealed.
This is in addition to a likely total of 36 years jail sentence for the six personnel as stipulated by the Reviewed Armed Forces Act 2004.
The Nigeria Air Force headquarters had at the weekend issued a statement to the effect that the personnel were found guilty and variously sentenced.
It did not, however, mention specific sentences to individual personnel.
Badeh, who was also a former Chief of Air Staff (CAS), was ambushed and killed on December 18, 2018, by gunmen on his way back from his farm on the Gitata-Keffi highway in Nasarawa State.
The statement had said six NAF personnel, who were aides to the late CDS, were awarded various sentences by the general court-martial sitting at the NAF base, Bill Clinton Drive in Abuja.
The six NAF personnel, who stood trial for various offences, are Squadron Leader Tom Gwani, Flight Sergeant Amu David, Flight Sergeant Philemon Degema, Flight Sergeant Sabo Simon, Sergeant Mukhtar Abdullahi and Sergeant Alfred Alexander.
Four of the personnel were detailed to provide armed escort for Badeh while two others were detailed for guard duty at his house on December 18, 2018, when the former CDS was ambushed and killed by some gunmen on his way back from his farm.
Delivering judgment on the matter at the weekend, the President of the GCM, Air Commodore David Aluku, pronounced the six accused personnel guilty of various charges, including failure to perform military duties by absconding from the convoy of the deceased former CDS while it came under attack, as well as conduct to the prejudice of service discipline for giving false statements.
“The charges against the accused also included other civil offences of criminal conspiracy and miscellaneous offences relating to property for illegally disposing 79 rounds of 5.56mm live ammunition issued for the protection of the late CDS, among others.
“On the count of aiding and abetting, two of the personnel were found not guilty, while the other four personnel who were detailed to provide armed escort were handed various sentences,” the statement issued by NAF Spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said.
While pleading in mitigation, the defence counsel urged the court to show leniency, describing the accused persons as first time offenders.
But Section 45 (1) of the Armed Forces Act under the heading ‘Aiding the enemy’, states that: “A person subject to service law under this Act who, with intent to assist the enemy (a) abandons or delivers up any place, post or thing which it is his duty to defend, or induces any other person to abandon or deliver up any place, post or thing which it is that person’s duty to defend; or (d) furnishes the enemy with arms or ammunition or with supplies of any description…is guilty of an offence under this section and liable, on conviction by a court-martial, to suffer death or any other punishment provided by this Act.”
Section 62 of the Reviewed Armed Forces Act 2004 which dwells on failure to perform military duties prescribes two years imprisonment. It states that: “A person subject to service law under this Act who (a) without reasonable excuse, fails to attend for a parade or other duty of any description or leaves parade or duty before he is permitted to do so; or
(b) neglects to perform, or negligently performs a duty of any description, is guilty of an offence under this section and liable, on conviction by a court-martial, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or any less punishment provided by this Act.”
Section 64 (e) of the Act stipulates that: “A person under this service law who makes away (by pawning or in any other way) with any military, naval or air force decoration granted to him or any clothing, arms, ammunition or other equipment issued to him for his use for military purposes is guilty of an offence under this section and liable, on conviction by a court-martial, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or any less punishment provided by this Act.”