The Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement has refused to hear the petitions of some military officers convicted and sentenced to various categories of punishment by courts martial.
Among the soldiers, whose petitions were rejected by the Justice Biobele Georgewill-led seven-man panel, was a former Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, Enitan Ransome-Kuti, who was demoted from the rank of Brigadier-General to Colonel.
Others included Lt. Col. A.O. Ojo, who was dismissed by the Nigerian Army for alleged negligence of military duties; and 54 soldiers who claimed to have been illegally tried and convicted by the court martial of demanding weapons for counter-insurgency operations in the North-East region.
They also included some 12 soldiers who were convicted of protesting the killing of their colleagues by well-armed insurgents.
The rest were Lance Corporals Bankole Taiwo, Ayodele Olawale and Isiah Olofu as well as Private Adebayo Gbenga, who were collectively seeking the review of their conviction.
The soldiers had in five separate petitions urged the panel to review what they termed their “illegal trials” and their subsequent convictions by the court martial.
They had also, through their lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), urged the panel to recommend to President Muhammadu Buhari to pardon them.
But the seven-man panel, had at its inaugural sitting on September 11, expressed doubt as to whether it had jurisdiction to entertain the complaints of the soldiers bordering on the decisions of a military tribunal with pending appeals against the said decisions at the Court of Appeal.
The panel, on Tuesday, heard the parties to the petitions, with the soldiers’ lawyer, Falana, insisting that the panel had jurisdiction to hear the complaints, and the Nigerian Army’s lawyer, Mr. Biola Oyebanji, arguing to the contrary.
The panel, on September 12, delivered its ruling, a copy of which was obtained on Sunday.
In its lead ruling delivered by Justice Georgewill, a serving Justice of the Court of Appeal, the panel unanimously agreed with the Army’s lawyer, rejecting the petitions of the soldiers on the grounds that their matters were pending appeals before the Court of Appeal.
The panel added that such petition was outside its terms of reference.
It also stated that the issue of request for pardon sought by the soldiers was already put before President Buhari and was already being attended to by the Presidency.
It held that the President should be allowed to deal with the issue to a logical conclusion without any interference from the panel.
Citing a number of judicial authorities, Justice Georgewill added that the issue of pardon requested by the petitioners in their petitions was merely an ancillary prayer, adding that since it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the “principal prayers” which had to do with request to overturn their trials, convictions and sentence by the court martial, it could not entertain the entire petitions.