By Angela Atabo
Abuja – A Special Court Martial has demoted Maj.-Gen. Patrick Falola, to Brigadier-General for admitting students for clinical training without permission from higher authorities
Falola, Director, 68 Military Reference Hospital, Yaba, Lagos State, was arraigned on a two-count charge before a court martial presided over by AVM James Gbum.
Faloola admitted international students from Espan Formation University, Cotonou, in Benin Republic, between July and September, 2016.
Gbum, the President of the court martial, held that Falola’s conduct amount to fraudulent use of property of the armed forces.
He discharged and acquitted him on charges of conduct to prejudice the service but convicted him on fraudulent misapplication of the hospital’s property.
“This court is compelled to award a higher punishment under sections 103 and 66 of the Armed Forces Act Cap A 20 laws of the Federation 2004.
“The court has taken into consideration the service record of the convicted senior officer, the touching plea in mitigation by the defence council as well as the demeanor of the convicted officer
“But we have also taken into consideration the senior officer’s seniority, rank, experience and the regimental tradition of the armed forces.
“This court has discharged and acquitted the convicted officer on the first charge, on the second offence, the sentence is reduction in rank to Brigadier General.”
Gbum said that the filing and sentences were subject to confirmation by the Nigerian Army Council which was the confirming authority.
He, however, said that the convicted officer would maintain his rank until the council concludes the confirmation process.
The prosecuting counsel, Lt.-Col. Ukpe Ukpe, told newsmen that the convicted was arraigned for using the Nigeria army property to train students from neighboring Benin Republic without following the necessary procedure.
Ukpe said the judgment was a balanced one as the court was very liberal in metting out punishment.
“If you check Section 115 of the Alarmed Forces Act, the offence falls under Section 68, punishment that could be metted out included dismissal,imprisonment or even death but the court went down to reduction in rank which is balanced enough.”
The defence council, retired Wing Cdr. Enokela Onyilo-Uloko, said the conviction had no legal backing and was an attempt to tarnish the clean record of his client.
Onyilo-Uloko said this was because there was no law stating that senior officers must take permission from the higher authority before allowing such training.
He said his cleint only did what his predecessors also did, which was no crime, adding that his client would appeal.
“No such law was tendered in evidence but they are saying he should use his initiative when there is no law finalising an act it does not amounted to criminal offence that my cleint is being tried for.
“So, the conviction is based on nothing and cannot stand the light of day in the eye of the law.
“And when we go higher to the Court of Appeal, I assure you, this conviction will be thrown out,” he opined. (NAN)
(Edited by Felix Nwadioha)