A Nigerian court has sentenced 54 Nigerian soldiers to death by firing squad for refusing to recapture three towns that had been captured by Boko Haram in August, BBC reported on Wednesday.
According to BBC, defense lawyer Femi Falana said the soldiers were all accused of "conspiring to commit mutiny against the authorities of 7 Division, Nigerian Army." They were also reportedly charged with assault, cowardice and refusing to fight, The Daily Beast reported. Five additional soldiers were acquitted, while all denied the charges.
The sentencing is subject to approval by Nigeria’s senior military authorities.
In the past, Nigerian troops have complained about not being paid in full or receiving proper food supplies, as well as a lack of adequate weapons and ammunitions. Boko Haram militants reportedly outgun the soldiers with more sophisticated weapons.
In reference to the trial taking place behind closed doors, Femi Falana argued that the acquittal of five soldiers was just "designed to give the false impression that the dubious verdict was fair and just.”
The writer also pointed out that the soldiers, ages 21 to 25, were neither motivated nor equipped, for the allocated funds had allegedly been “cornered by corrupt military officers."
"We submit that the oath of allegiance taken by the accused soldiers is not a license to commit suicide,” Falana wrote.
In September, a dozen soldiers were also sentenced to death by firing squad for mutiny and the attempted murder of their commanding officer in the northeast.
Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has been blamed for more than 2,000 deaths this year alone and tens of thousands over the past five years. The insurgents made global headlines and sparked the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls when they kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in the town of Chibok. About 50 girls have managed to escape since then, but the status of the remaining victims is unknown.
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(Photo: Ayemoba Godswill / Demotix/Corbis)