A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Sebastine Hon, has faulted the conviction and sentence to death of the 52 soldiers charged with mutiny by the military.
In a statement he issued in Abuja on Saturday, Hon said the trial, conviction and sentence were a nullity because they were done in secrecy. According to him, the trial and conviction should be assumed not to have taken place.
He said: “The recent secret trial and eventual conviction and sentence to death of soldiers by a military tribunal is unconstitutional, null and void. The reason is plain enough: section 36(3) of the 1999 Constitution mandatorily requires all criminal trials to be conducted in public and not in secret.
“The secret trial of these suspects, therefore, amounts to a gross violation of this mandatory constitutional provision”, Hon added.
He explained that Section 36(3) of the constitution was under Chapter IV of the said constitution, which guaranteed certain inalienable rights termed fundamental rights.
He pointed out that superior courts of record in Nigeria, including the Supreme Court, had held that these rights were above the ordinary laws of the land, in this case, including military laws and rules.
He cited the cases of Ransome-Kuti vs. Attorney-General of the Federation (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 6) 211 SC; WAEC vs. Adeyanju (2008) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1092) 270 at 304 SC and Essien vs. Inyang (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 628) 951 at 967 CA, etc.
“More importantly, the Supreme Court in the fairly recent case of Nigerian Army vs. Aminu-Kano (2010) All FWLR (Pt. 528) 1805 at 1832 SC held in emphatic terms that the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution apply to all Nigerians.