A soldier, Major Akeem Aderogba Oseni, is currently languishing at the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja, for simply carrying out the orders of superior officers.
The major had on February 23, 2017, received information about an alleged jailbreak involving one Lance Corporal Benjamin Collins and ordered alongside three others to ‘drill’ (discipline) the soldier, and move him to another detention facility.
However, in the process of carrying out the order, the erring soldier died, leading to the arrest of all three personnel assigned the task.
While the two other personnel were eventually released and absolved of any blame in the death of the soldier, Oseni was slammed with a 10-year jail term by a military court, which declined to listen to explanations of any kind from him.
Before being dispatched to Kuje to serve his jail term, Oseni, while being illegally held at a military facility in Abuja, was subjected to all forms of inhuman treatment by the Nigerian Army.
He was hardly fed and apart from his legs and hands being constantly bound in chains for the first two months of his illegal detention, the army major was forced to defecate and urinate on himself throughout the period.
After the chains were removed from his hands and legs, Oseni remained in illegal detention for another eight months with his fundamental human rights violated in several ways.
“My legs and hands were constantly in chains for the first two months I was detained by the army after the incident.
“I was in excruciating pains; I couldn’t move my body or change positions throughout that period. I defecated and urinated on myself in that same condition throughout that period.
“By military laws, I was not supposed to be held for more than 60 days when a decision had not been reached on the matter but I was detained for 10 months, which is a gross violation of my fundamental rights.
“While I was being held, the army ordered First City Monument Bank to restrict access to my account to ensure that no money was withdrawn from it.
“Also, the army invaded my house in Abuja and moved all my belongings. They did all of these without a court order.
“I never committed any crime; I am just being punished for obeying the command of my superior. The two others with whom I ‘drilled’ the soldier have both been absolved of any blame, while I am being held at Kuje Correctional Centre.
“The Chief of Army Staff is not aware of this issue; it is being kept away from him by the Director of Army Legal Service, Major-General Wambai, who is behind my entire ordeal,” Oseni said when one of our correspondents visited him at Kuje Correctional Centre recently.
The soldier, who has since challenged his imprisonment in court through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1104/2021, is seeking the enforcement of his fundamental rights to own moveable and immovable property, right to dignity and right to a fair hearing.
Oseni is suing the Nigerian Army for keeping him in leg and hand chains for two months and further detaining him for another eight months for simply carrying out the directive of his superiors in service.
He is also taking legal action against the army and FCMB for restricting access to his bank account, thereby denying him funds to take care of himself and his family.
He is praying the court to compel the Nigerian Army to pay him a sum of N2billion as compensation for violating his human rights, and also apologise in at least three national dailies for the inhuman treatment meted to him.
Though the Nigerian Army in its response to the lawsuit has denied ordering FCMB to freeze the soldier’s account, the financial institution in its court papers confirmed that it indeed got the directive to place a Post No Debit order on Oseni’s funds from the army.
In a counter-affidavit in opposition to the applicant’s notice dated September 13, 2021, and sworn before the Federal High Court, Abuja, on November 29, 2021, Charles Osomba, a customer service manager with FCMB, revealed that the bank received a request from the Nigerian Army to block Oseni’s account in 2020, puncturing the lies told the court by the military arm.
Osomba said, “The second respondent (FCMB) placed a Post No Debit on the applicant’s account after receiving a distress request from the first respondent (Nigerian Army) requesting the second respondent to restrict any form of debit transaction on the applicant’s account until further directive from it.
“The second respondent only strictly acted on the instruction of the first respondent being an important institution critical to the security of the country and the genuine apprehension of dire consequences for not so acting.”
An enquiry sent to the Nigerian Army by SaharaReporters over the issue had yet to be responded to as of the time of this report.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that the Nigerian Army will be accused by its own soldiers of human rights breach – the latest merely adds to a swelling list of such gross violations.
For instance, in December 2021, a female soldier, Hannah Sofiat, was detained by the Nigerian Army for accepting a marriage proposal from a male member of the National Youth Service Corps in Kwara State.
Sofiat was ordered detained by Captain M. M. Abdulahi, Kwara State NYSC Camp Commandant, at a military detention facility in Ilorin, the state capital.
She was also charged with seven counts of misconduct by the Nigerian Army.
She was eventually released weeks later following a massive public outcry.
In June 2020, a human rights lawyer, Tope Akinyode, instituted a lawsuit challenging the arrest and torture of Lance Corporal Martins, a soldier in the Nigerian Army, arrested for criticising Chief of Army Staff at the time, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, for failing to tackle killings by terrorists and armed gangs in the Northern part of the country.
There have been several similar violations of the rights of personnel over the years and in recent times by the Nigerian Army despite outrage from the public and international organisations.