Nigeria has sentenced 54 soldiers to death for refusing to fight the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, but a human rights lawyer is arguing the men were justified in not going on what would have been an ill-advised suicidal mission with little weapons.
The soldiers, all between the ages of 21 and 25, joined the army around 2012, according to defense attorney Femi Falana. He argues that the young men were deployed to fight the well-equipped group with little or no training, adding that money for salaries and weapons is often diverted by corrupt officers.
On Thursday, Falana said he would take all legal measures to prevent the death by firing squad verdict that was handed down Wednesday night.
“Instead of bringing such unpatriotic officers to book, the military authorities have engaged in the diversionary tactics of wasting the lives of innocent soldiers by sentencing them to death without any legal justification,” Falana charged.
He said Boko Haram on July 9 attacked the soldiers when the battalion of 750 troops was down to just 174. The extremists killed 26 soldiers including three officers and seriously injured 82. The soldiers demanded to be properly armed and were assured this would happen, he said.
Instead, the battalion was ordered Aug. 4 to recapture three towns controlled by Boko Haram. The few soldiers who deployed were ambushed and kidnapped. When some weapons were made available Aug. 8, another group of soldiers recaptured the towns and liberated their colleagues, Falana said.
“They were commended for their bravery and sacrifice. But for some inexplicable reasons, the army authorities ordered that the soldiers be charged with mutiny for allegedly exposing the armed forces to embarrassment by asking for weapons!” his statement said.
According to Falana, another 43 soldiers are on trial for mutiny and cowardice.
Meanwhile, members of Boko Haram carried out another mass kidnapping, abducting 185 people and killing more than 30 in northeastern Nigeria Sunday.
According to CNN:
Gunmen in pickup trucks attacked the village of Gumsuri, just north of Chibok, on Sunday, shooting down men before herding women and children together.
“They gathered the women and children and took them away in trucks after burning most of the village with petrol bombs,” a local government official said on condition anonymity for fear of reprisal.
News of the attack took four days to emerge because of a lack of communication. Telecommunications towers in the region had been disabled in previous attacks.
Local officials learned of the attack from residents who fled to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, where the officials had moved a year ago to escape Boko Haram attacks.
The militants stormed the village from two directions, overwhelming local vigilantes who had repelled Boko Haram attacks over the course of the year, said Gumsuri resident Umar Ari, who trekked for four days to Maiduguri.
”They destroyed almost half the village and took away 185 women, girls and boys,” Ari said.
To date, Boko Haram terrorists have been responsible for 5,000 deaths. According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service report, Boko Haram is one of the world’s deadliest terrorist organizations.