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MURIC seeks freedom for 54 soldiers arrested in 2014

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The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has appealed to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Rauf Aregbesola, to free the 54 soldiers arrested since 2014, owing to his pledge to decongest Nigeria’s correctional facilities within six months.

The soldiers were arrested five years ago for daring to complain to their commander that their weapons were too poor to confront better-equipped Boko Haram fighters.

Director, MURIC, Ishaq Akintola, in a statement yesterday, agreed with the minister that Nigeria’s correctional centres are long overdue for decongestion.

He said: “The minister has good intentions and the idea is quite laudable, visionary and humane. Available data indicates that more than 70 per cent of inmates of correctional centres are awaiting trials. This has caused severe congestion forcing inmates to sleep in turn. They queue for hours in front of the toilets. This is dehumanising, degrading and inconsiderate.

“Exempli gratia, 1,574 out of 1,761 inmates in Anambra are awaiting trial. Out of the 600 inmates in Aba, only 113 of them are serving full sentences. The rest are awaiting trial and expectedly, 80 of them have gone mad. It is so pathetic, so alarming.

“Then comes the question of space. Our correctional centres are not large enough, neither do they have necessary facilities to retain a human face. 585 inmates jostle for 400 spaces in Ekiti. The space designed for 1,354 inmates in Rivers is being used by 4,424 inmates. Owerri Correctional Centre contains 2,500 instead of 550. This is why Aregbesola’s move to decongest the prisons could not have come at a better time.”

Akintola appeals to the minister to extend the decongestion exercise to the 54 soldiers, saying: “But we are asking the minister to extend the kind gesture to other prisoners based on merit. Our main interest lies in the 54 soldiers. These were soldiers arrested in 2014 for daring to complain to their commander that their weapons were too poor to confront better-equipped Boko Haram fighters.

“They had earlier lost 23 men and four officers due to poor equipment when they advanced on Damboa on 9th July 2014. This made them demand better supplies when they were ordered to return to the battlefront again without improved weaponry. They were sentenced to death in December 2014 but this was later commuted to ten years imprisonment.

“But Nigerians have since learnt that it was the 54 soldiers affair which exposed the massive corruption in the army with particular reference to arms gate. We, therefore, contend that the 54 soldiers should be seen as heroes and patriots instead of being treated as criminals who merely deserve to rot in jail.

“It is on these humane and compassionate grounds that we are pleading with the minister to kindly extend the decongestion exercise to the 54 soldiers. It is about our norms and values. Those who have toiled for our country should not be made to regret their sacrifices. It is demoralizing,” he said.


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