The two soldiers who brutalised a physically challenged man for wearing a military camouflage shirt have been demoted to Privates and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour. This comes after the Nigerian army arrested the soldiers on Wednesday last week.
“Consequently both have been sentenced to reduction in rank, from Corporal to Private soldiers and 21 Days imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) respectively, which include forfeiture of 21 Days pay to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Nigerian Army has also reached out to the victim of the unjustifiable assault, Mr Chijioke Uraku (alias CJ) as widely reported by the media.”
A statement by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Sani Kukasheka Usman said the two soldiers have equally been charged for assault by their Commanding Officer. The army, however, enjoined the general public to regard the incident as an isolated case which does not reflect the true image of the Nigerian Army.
“We wish to inform the public that the incident took place on Tuesday 7th February 2017, at Onitsha, Anambra State. In line with our zero tolerance for acts of indiscipline and unprofessional conducts especially in relation to violation of human rights, we wish to further state that the soldiers involved have since been identified and apprehended.”
“They have also been charged with assault by their Commanding Officer. Similarly, troops have been warned to desist from such acts that infringe on human rights and cast serious aspersions on the good image of the Nigerian Army.”
“The public should please regard this ugly incident as an isolated case which is not a true reflection of the Nigerian Army.”
The military uniform is a peculiar symbolism with a long history and tradition which has been adopted by armies since the seventeenth century. It also calls for respect and fear and symbolizes strength and power. While it is horrible for soldiers to beat up civilians, there’s a law in the Nigerian criminal code that bars anyone from unlawfully wearing camouflage outfits. We explain the code below:
The Nigerian Criminal Code
Sections 110 & 111 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, L.N. 112 of 1964, 1967 No. 27 states; “Any person who- Unlawfully wears the uniform of forces, etc. (1) not being a person serving in any of the armed forces of Nigeria, wears the uniform or any part of the uniform of such forces, or any of the armed dress having the appearance or bearing any of the regimental or other distinctive marks of such uniforms.
“(2) not being a person holding any office or authority under the Government of Nigeria or of any part thereof, wears any uniform or distinctive badge or mark or carries any token calculated to convey the impression that such person holds any office or authority under the government; is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for one month, or to a fine of ten naira, unless he proves that he had the permission of the President or of the Governor of a State or wear such uniform or dress, badge or mark or to carry such token: Provided that this section shall not apply to the wearing of any uniform or dress in the course of a stage play or in any bona fide public entertainment.
Section 111 provides, “Any person who sells or gives any uniform, or part of any dress, badge or mark, as in the last preceding section mentioned, to any person who is not authorised to wear the same, is guilty of an offence and is liable to the penalties prescribed in the said section.
Section 251 of the Constitution also states; Any person who, not being a person serving in any of the armed or police forces of Nigeria, wears the uniform of any of these forces, or any dress having the appearance or bearing any of the regimental or other distinctive marks of any such uniform, in such manner or in such circumstances as to be likely to bring contempt on that uniform, or employs any other person so to wear such uniform or dress, is guilty of a simple offence, and is liable to imprisonment for three months or to a fine of forty naira.”
The Military cannot unilaterally constitute the Prosecutor and the Judge by charging a person for wearing army uniforms and has no jurisdiction to deal with civilians. If a civilian contravenes the law of Nigeria, in accordance with the rule of law, such a person is charged to court and not disciplined the same way the military court-martials can deal with their military personnel who are subject to service law.
It is, therefore, important that the public respects national symbols of authority including the use of uniform accoutrements because it’s a symbol of esprit de corps which distinguishes the members of armed forces from the rest of the population.