A General Court Martial in Abuja on Friday sentenced Majors Akeem Oseni, Ogbemudia Osawe, Captain S. Amosu and Second Lieutenant Nuhu Dogary to 10 years in prison for torturing L/Corporal Benjamin Collins to death.
The officers were said to have moved Collins from a guardroom at Mogadishu Barracks, Abuja, where he was being held to a bush near Ihejirika quarters along Abuja-Nyanya expressway where he was said to have been assaulted while in handcuffs and leg chains.
Collins, who hailed from Rivers State, died after the assault which took place on February 23, 2017 and his corpse was deposited at Asokoro general hospital mortuary.
After the incident, the convicts were said to have reported to their superiors that Collins had escaped from custody.
He was said to have been detained for over two years for allegedly travelling to Lagos to see his sick aunt without official permission.
The officers were found guilty of manslaughter by the GMC, which was comprised of the President, Brigs. Gen. G. Umelo; S. Aliyu, A. Edet, Brig. N. Mohammed, Cols. K. Ndamadu, T. Agbor, and I. Tanko.
The prosecution team included Major John Orumor, Capts, P. Ogbuiya, David Ighodaro and Lt. T. Azi, while the Judge advocate was Daniel Ehicheoya.
The convicts were defended by Majors Femi Oyebanji, Mike Kwekwenbo (retd.) and Isa Shuaibu.
The judgment, it was gathered, was subject to confirmation by the Army Council headed by the Minister of Defence.
Our correspondent learnt that the four officers had been moved to a cell following their conviction.
Investigations by our correspondent indicated that the military probe into Collins’ death and the subsequent trial of the convicts were motivated by a petition from the deceased’s lawyer, Johnson Oyewole of Delu Consulting Firm.
Collins, who enlisted in the Army in 2011, had contacted Oyewole after he was arrested in Lagos for the alleged offence of absence without leave and detained at 81 Division Garrison Provost cell, Obalende, from March 2014 till June 2016.
He was subsequently moved to Army headquarters garrison, Abuja, on January 27, 2017 where he was further held in leg chains in the cell at Mogadishu cantonment.
Oyewole, in series of petitions to the National Assembly, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff and others, narrated that he was supposed to see the deceased on February 22, 2017, but was denied access to him.
The lawyer in a petition dated November 17, 2017, addressed to NASS said, “On Feb. 23, 2017 at about 3 pm, the acting officer commanding Military Police, Capt. Musa Aruwa (N/13511) complained to one Brig. Gen. Obot (N/8318) that the deceased soldier had been giving him headache in the guardroom in an attempt to escape.”
The petition added, “Major Oseni (N/12127) was assigned to isolate the deceased soldier from the guardroom to another one but contrary to the instruction given to him, he decided to recruit Major Osawe (N/12004), Capt. S Amosu (N/13046) and 2nd Lt. Dogary (N/16370) to deal with the deceased soldier.
“The officers removed their name tags, dashed into the guardroom and ordered the deceased who had just eaten to come outside; they double-handcuffed him backward, put him in leg chains and drove him away in a white Toyota Hilix van with registration number NA/4/B05 to a destination outside the cantonment where they brutalized the deceased until he became unconscious.”
It was learnt that the driver of the pilot vehicle, Cpl. Israel testified before the GMC about the assault on Collins which according to a pathologist from Asokoro General hospital, Dr Ezike, led to his demise.
Oyewole, while commending the judgment, observed that the convicts should have been tried for culpable homicide, stressing that his client was taken from custody and tortured to death.
“We thank the CDS, COAS and the NASS for hearkening to our cries and treating over 32 petitions sent to them on the matter,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army had in a letter dated August 7, 2017, signed by Maj. Gen. J. Malu, expressed its condolences to Collins’ family, noting that the next-of-kin, Paul Bassey, was entitled to burial expenses, death gratuity, welfare insurance scheme contribution, benevolent fund, group life assurance death claim and other benefits.