By Augustine Ehikioya
Declaring a media report as fake news, the Army Headquarters has revealed what it described as another ill-conceived report by Sahara Reporters on a sub-judice and ongoing Court Martial process of the erstwhile Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigerian Army Properties Limited (NAPL), Major General UM Mohammed.
Major General Mohammad was indicted by a Military Police investigation and recommended for trial.
A statement issued on Sunday by the Director Army Public Relations,
Brigadier General, Onyema Nwachukwu, and made available to Security Watch Africa (SWA), said the report was aimed at casting aspersion on the ongoing Court Martial.
The statement reads “It is expedient to clear the air on the despicably false report and calculated attempt to cast aspersion on the ongoing Court Martial, which has already progressed to an advanced stage, as the prosecution has put forward the evidence against General Mohammed and closed its case.
“The accused Senior Officer has opened his defence and is testifying as Defence Witness One (DW1).
“For the avoidance of doubts, without being sub-judicial, the former GMD NAPL is facing trial in relation to alleged offences of theft of various sums of money belonging to NAPL and forgery.
“These are all acts declared as offences punishable under the provisions of various extant penal Laws in Nigeria.”
It added “To set the records straight, upon investigation and indictment of the accused senior officer by Military Police investigations, the Army Headquarters convened a Special Court Martial to try the Senior Officer as a procedure to legally recover the sums of money he allegedly fraudulently acquired from the coffers of NAPL during his tenure as GMD.
“The details of the outcome of the Court Martial will be provided at the end of the Court Martial proceedings.
“However, it is instructive to point out, that Court Martial trials are lawfully provided in the Armed Forces Act (AFA) as one of the disciplinary tools in the Armed Forces. The Court of Appeal and Supreme Court have in multiple instances validated the procedures, findings, and sentences of Court-martial.
“Court Martials like all other criminal trials are held in the open. The trial of Major General UM Mohammed is taking place at the Army Headquarters Command Officers’ Mess, Asokoro Abuja and not shrouded in secrecy as being wrongly insinuated.
“The trial has been open and the Defence has presented adequate representation in court. The accused senior officer’s family members, friends, and associates attend and observe the Court proceedings till date, without hindrance.
“It is factual that Maj Gen UM Mohammed ought to have proceeded on retirement, however, provisions of the Armed Forces Act (specifically Section 169) permits the retention in service of such a personnel, who has pending disciplinary case(s) to allow extant legal processes.
“Furthermore, it is also a fact that members of the Special Court Martial trying Maj Gen Mohammed are all junior to him. This is permissible in special circumstances, as the Armed Forces Act provides for this contingency in Section 133(7), where the Convening Officer is required to obtain the consent of an appropriate superior to appoint any such officers as members of the court. The requisite consent was obtained before convening the Special Court Martial trying the accused senior officer.”
The statement noted that General Mohammed is being defended by a legal team comprising 2 Senior Advocates and 6 lawyers, including a retired military officer.
“He is currently being detained at a military location purpose-built for such detention, where the rights and well-being of such detainees are given prime consideration. Though at the onset of the trial, Maj Gen Mohammed requested to be granted bail inter-alia on health grounds, the Court in considering the bail application, took cognizance of the humongous amount of monies allegedly stolen in the indictment, which could encourage the accused senior officer to abscond.
“The Court therefore, declined the application for bail. The Court however, granted visitation rights to some family members, including his two wives, son, daughter, and brother as requested by the accused officer. These persons have been visiting him regularly at the detention facility.
“On the issue of the accused senior officer’s health; as with all other Court Martial trials, Maj Gen Mohammed’s state of health is examined daily to determine his fitness to stand trial before the commencement of proceedings for the day. The holding facility where he is detained is serviced by the Army Command and NAOWA Hospital and these medical facilities are open to him whenever required.
“It is crucial to state clearly, that it is inappropriate and amounts to unlawful interference with the administration of justice to peddle inaccurate reports and comments on a matter currently under judicial adjudication (sub-judice). All the statements reported to have been made about certain persons and funds disbursement were made in the course of the trial by a witness in the defence of his case. We shall therefore not comment on those statements to maintain the sanctity of the trial and its outcome.
“Sahara Reporters is enjoined to practice responsible journalism and refrain from subjective, inaccurate, and inappropriate reporting of matters currently sub-judice,” it concluded.