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#OtvOPINIONS: The military and mutiny, by Sabella Abidde via @opinionsng


Last week, the media reported that the Nigerian
Army sentenced 54 soldiers to death by firing squad
for the offences of mutiny and conspiracy to
commit mutiny. The condemned soldiers were
charged for refusing to obey orders from their
commanding officer, Col. Timothy Opurum, to take
part in an operation to recapture towns and villages
in Borno State from Boko Haram.


Some of the accused testified that they refused to
partake in the operation because they did not have
the equipment to effectively carry out their duty;
while others professed ignorance of the directive. A
few others said their medical condition made it
impossible for them to go on the said assignment.
The harsh penalty has since elicited domestic and
global condemnation.
In some military institutions, mutiny is a serious
offence that carries the death sentence. But what
really is a mutiny, and does the accused deserve to
be executed? We’ll come back to these questions.
No one who has ever gone to war returns
unscathed. When you go into the battle zone, one of
three things is likely to happen to you: Death,
physical injury or mental damage. In essence, if you
don’t die in battle, something else dies in you; you
will never be whole again. Besides, wars are very
costly in other ways. It is for these reasons that
many nation-states are hesitant to send their boys
and girls to battle. And when they do, they are
generally well-cared for.
But long before they become combat-ready, the
government and its military establishment make
available several things in readiness for war and the
post-conflict environment. This is called “Combat
Readiness” of troops. Professional armies are
supposed to have this in place. Otherwise, the aims
and objectives of the government will be abridged.
For any nation’s Armed Forces to be effective
therefore, it must be properly manned, properly
equipped and properly trained in modern warfare
(which included terrorism and counterinsurgency).
In addition to the aforementioned, three other things
matter: civilian and military leadership;
compensation; and morale. All these affect the
cohesiveness and battle readiness of the troops (be
it in the trenches, jungles, air, sea, or cyberspace).
This leads to a simple question: “Is the Nigerian
Armed Forces prepared and combat ready?” And by
extension, is the Nigerian military ready and able to
take on ragtag armies like Boko Haram? In the last
two decades at least, many military strategists and
professional soldiers do not consider the Nigerian
Armed Forces “modern, ready or capable” of the
demands of the 21st century.
Frankly, I doubt if any of the Service Chiefs – Air
Marshal Alex Badeh, Major-General Kenneth
Minimah, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin, and Air Vice-
Marshal Adesola Amosu –thinks in the affirmative.
If indeed the Nigerian Armed Forces is not modern,
ready or capable – why send its men into the
battlefield. Why send them to confront a better-
armed better-equipped and better-motivated Boko
Harm? Why send them to their death and or to
psychological injury?
Doing so is akin to sending them to commit suicide.
And any officer or Commander-in-Chief that sends
his men to commit suicide in the battlefield
deserves to be severely reprimanded.
There have been several mutinies in history. For
instance, there was the French Army mutinies of
1917; the 1931 Invergordon mutiny; the Velos
mutiny of 1973; the Fort Bonifacio mutiny in 2006;
and the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, British
Army mutiny of 2013. What these tell us is that
wherever you have the army, or men of the sea,
there will always be mutinies. Since the war against
Boko Haram began, there have been several cases
of “disobedience, revolt and desertion.” In fact,
mutinies are not foreign to colonial and post-
colonial Nigeria.
What is a mutiny anyway? According to publicly
available sources, mutiny is a “concerted
disobedient or seditious action by persons in military
service, or by sailors on commercial vessels. Mutiny
may range from a combined refusal to obey orders
to active revolt or going over to the enemy on the
part of two or more persons. In the armed forces, it
is considered one of the gravest crimes against
military law.”
But what if the order is unlawful? Say, executing
such a directive might lead to the death of innocent
civilians, or that the result might be considered a
crime against humanity? Or, as in this particular
case, what if the soldiers were right: They didn’t
have the necessary equipment to effectively carry
out their duties?
I am not sure what the Nigerian military law says
about unlawful orders. It is however pertinent to
note that public records show that the “US military
law requires obedience only to lawful orders.
Disobedience to unlawful orders is the obligation of
every member of the US military, a principle
established by the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials
following World War II and reaffirmed in the
aftermath of the My Lai Massacre during the
Vietnam War.”
Let me touch upon a point I made earlier: The
Nigerian Armed Forces is not ready for modern
warfare. It is especially ill-equipped to take on Boko
Haram. I am not sure anyone in and outside of the
military would dispute this fact. This being the fact,
how do we – how do the generals, the President,
the National Assembly and the public – expect our
combatants to effectively engage and defeat threats
like Boko Haram?
Those who sign up to join any of the military
branches know and understand the fact that they
may be killed on the battlefield. Every soldier knows
that. Nonetheless, every soldier should have a fair
fighting chance. They need not die needlessly or
“die for nothing.” To execute these soldiers for
disobeying unlawful orders is not only
unconscionable, it is inhumane.
You don’t go to war unprepared; just as you don’t
carry out surgeries without the necessary training
and equipment. Who ventures into the sea without
the proper gears? Why ask our soldiers to fight
Boko Haram when they are not ready and do not
have equipment? We therefore call on the highest
authorities within the Nigerian military to spare the
lives of these men. Or else, the President and
Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces
should spare their lives and let them return to their
loved ones.
Now, is the narrative I have given you the correct
version of things and events? Is this really what
happened? Were those soldiers sent to commit
suicide or what we have here is an act of

This article was earlier posted on Opinions.Ng

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