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Appeal Court Reverses Conviction of Maj.-General, Orders Retrial

The Court of Appeal in Abuja has set aside a Special Military Court Martial’s conviction of a former Chief of Transformation and Innovation at the Nigerian Army Headquarters, Major-General Ibrahim Sani.

The court, in a unanimous judgement of a three-man panel, led by Justice Abubakar Yahaya, ordered the re-trial of the General after voiding the proceedings of the court martial leading to the conviction and sentence.
The court held that the trial was conducted in breach of the appellant’s right to fair hearing.

Delivering judgement, the Court of Appeal held, “The proceedings and judgement of the special court martial in respect of Charge No: NA/COAS/GI/39/16 filed before the lower Special Court Martial was set aside.

“An order is made for the retrial of the charges against the appellant by another Special Court Martial.”

The Court of Appeal made the order in its April 8, 2019 judgement, setting aside the conviction and the sentence of the appellant.

A copy of the judgement in the appeal marked CA/A/791/2017 was obtained on Thursday.

The judgement was delivered on the court martial’s four interlocutory rulings and the judgment.

Sani was, on July 4, 2016, arraigned before the court martial, which sat at the Army Headquarters Garrison, Mogadishu Cantonment, Asokoro, Abuja.

He was arraigned on nine counts bordering on, among others, making of false documents and cheating, punishable under Sections 56(2), 66(a), 90(a) and 113(3) of the Armed Forces Act (AFA), CAP A20, LFN, 2004.

He had pleaded not guilty to eight of the courts as Count 9 was struck out for being a duplication of Count 3.

In the course of the trial, Sani had filed various applications including one challenging the court martial’s jurisdiction on the basis of alleged contravention of his right to fair hearing guaranteed under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

All the applications were dismissed by the court martial.

In its judgement delivered on July 20, 2017, the court martial found Sani guilty on Counts 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 and sentenced him to a reduction in rank from Major General to Brigadier General.

But Sani, in a notice of appeal, filed on the March 3, 2018 challenged the rulings of the Court Martial delivered on July 11, 2016; November 1, 2016; April 25, 2017 and July 20, 2017 and the final judgement equally given on July 20, 2017.

The appellant formulated six issues bordering on the lack of jurisdiction and denial of fair hearing among others, for determination from the 14 grounds in the notice of appeal.

The Court of Appeal in its judgement nullified the proceedings and set aside the appellant’s conviction on the grounds of a breach of his right to fair hearing.

Reacting to the judgement, his lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), called on the Nigerian Army to obey the judgement by restoring the appellant to his rank as a Major General with all his benefits and entitlements in the Nigerian Army.

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