By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Nigerian Army says the former Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigeria Army Property Limited (NAPL), Maj.-Gen. UM Mohammed, is being Court Martialed following his indictment over sharp practices while in office.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, gave the clarifications in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.
“The general is being tried having been indicted by a military police investigation and recommendation for trial.
“Therefore, the media report on the ongoing Court Martial process of Maj.-Gen. Mohammed, is ill-conceived and campaign of calumny.
“Indeed, Maj.-Gen. Muhammed is facing army court-martial over alleged offences of theft of various sums of money belonging to NAPL and forgery,” he said.
According to him, “it is expedient to clear the air on the despicably false report and calculated attempt to cast aspersion on the ongoing court martial”.
He said the trial had already progressed to an advanced stage, adding that the prosecution had put forward the evidence against the general and closed its case.
Nwachukwu disclosed that the accused has opened his defence and testifying as First Defence Witness (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.
“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.
“This is 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.
“It is instructive to point out, that trials are lawfully provided in the Armed Forces Act (AFA) as one of the disciplinary tools in the armed forces,” he said.
Nwachukwu said the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court had in multiple instances validated the procedures, findings, and sentences of court-martial.
He added that the court martials like all other criminal trials were held in the open.
According to him, the trial of Maj.-Gen. Mohammed is taking place at the Army Headquarters Command Officers’ Mess, Asokoro Abuja and not shrouded in secrecy as being insinuated.
“The trial has been opened 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. 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,” he added.
The Army spokesman said that the general was being defended by a legal team comprising two Senior Advocates and six lawyers, including a retired military officer.
He said that Mohammed was currently being detained at a military location purposely-built for such detention, where the rights and wellbeing of such detainees were given prime consideration.
According to him, at the onset of the trial, Maj.-Gen. Mohammed requested to be granted bail inter-alia on health grounds, the court declined the bail application taking cognisance of the humongous amount of monies allegedly stolen in the indictment, which could encourage the accused senior officer to abscond.
He said 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, according to him, have been visiting him regularly at the detention facility.
On the issue of the accused senior officer’s health, Nwachukwu said that Maj.-Gen. Mohammed’s state of health was being examined daily to determine his fitness to stand trial before the commencement of proceedings for the day.
He said the holding facility where he was being detained was serviced by the Army Command and NAOWA Hospital, adding that the medical facilities were open to the accused officer 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.
“We enjoin media professionals to practice responsible journalism and refrain from subjective, inaccurate, and inappropriate reporting of matters currently sub-judice,” Nwachukwu said. (NAN)