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Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A one-time Chief of Transformation and Innovation Centre of the Nigerian Army, Major- Gen. Ibrahim Sani, has appealed against the judgment of the Military Special Court Martial which demoted him to a rank of a Brigadier-General.
The Court Martial, presided over by Air Vice Marshall James Gbum, had demoted Sani after he convicted him on a five-count charge bordering on cheating.
The Military Court Marshall which sat at the Mogadishu Cantonment, Asokoro, Abuja, had also ordered the army general to return N23 million being the money he got after he sold the part of the army land to himself.
The court also held that the convict fraudulently allocated to himself part of the land – 436 hectares, in Abuja and sold it.
But in his 13 grounds of appeal contained in his Notice of Appeal, the Gen. Sani asked the appellate court to quash the judgment of the Military Special Court Martial as it breached his rights to fair hearing, as provided under section 36 (1) of the 1999 constitution.
He contended that the Special Court Martial erred in law when it held that since the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Buratai who is the convening officer is not a member of the Special Court Martial, section 37 (1) of the 1999 constitution, is not breached in the trial of the appellant, before the Special Court Martial.
Gen. Sani is also urging the Court of Appeal to hold that the Special Court Martial erred in law when it ordered him to frontload the evidence of his witnesses mid-way into the defence thereby breaching his right to fair hearing on the same conditions as those applying to the witnesses called by the prosecution.
“That the Special Court Martial erred in law when it dismissed his motion on notice dated July 14, 2017 seeking to have the court declare that it had no jurisdiction to try him by reason of the fact that two members of the Special court to wit, the President (AVM JM Gbum (NAF/1366 and a member AVM. AVM A.A Iya (NAF/1429) were incompetent to sit as members of the Special Court Martial.”
He further argued that the Military Court Martial “erred in law when it allowed the two members whose competent as members was being challenged to sit and hear the argument on the motion and retired into the chambers to consider the argument for purpose of ruling on the application in clear violation of rights to fair hearing.”
It is also the contention of the appellant that the special Court Martial “erred in law when it overruled his no-case-submission at the close of the case for the prosecution as no prima-facie case had been made out.
“That the military court erred in law when it refused, neglected and or omitted to consider and or review the evidence of his witnesses before arriving at its judgment.
When the appeal came up, on Wednesday, Counsel to Gen. Sani, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), informed the court that he has just taken over the case file and needed time to file the necessary papers, including a motion for stay of execution of the judgment of the Military court martial.
Responding, counsel to the Nigerian Army, Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), did not object the request for adjournment.
The matter was consequently adjourned to March 15, 2018 for hearing of all pending applications.
In its judgment delivered on July 20, 2017, the Special Court Martial also held that Sani went beyond the mandate given to him by the army authorities which was “only to collect the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)’’ from relevant FCT Agency.
It said the convict divided the land into two and allocated one part to himself, using Pseudo Company in which he was the sole signatory. Gbum said the convict sold portions of the land to different three people at N10 million, N7 million and N6 million, respectively.
The court president, however, said that conviction and sentence was subject to the confirmation of the Army Council.
Before the disputed judgment, Sani had been standing trial in the court since 2015 after he was accused of dividing and allocating part of army land to himself.