The Court of Appeal in Abuja has discharged and acquitted Major Akeem Aderogba Oseni, who was earlier convicted of manslaughter over the death of a junior colleague.
The landmark appeal was filed and argued by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on Monday.
In a statement by Ozekhome made available to The PUNCH on Tuesday, Oseni had been sentenced to ten-year imprisonment in a judgement on February 7, 2020.
In February 2017, Oseni and three other officers – Major O. Osawu, Captain S Amosu, and Lieutenant Dogary – were instructed to drill a soldier, Lance Corporal Benjamin Collins, who attempted jailbreak.
Within few minutes of the drilling, Oseni counselled the soldier, and invited the co-admin, who also admonished the soldier and ordered his return to the earlier identified facility; and he immediately complied.
Oseni, during his routine checks as the field officer, was later informed that the deceased soldier had been struggling with his leg cuffs.
On seeing his condition, he summoned the officer in charge of the detention facility, and they both drove the soldier to Defence HQ Medical Centre, where he (Collins) was confirmed dead shortly after their arrival.
Major Oseni was court-martialled by the military authorities along with Osawe, Amosu and Dogary, on a lone count of manslaughter in Charge No AHQGAR/GI/300/47 between Major A.A Oseni & 3 others vs Nigerian Army, dated August 9, 2018, in a General Court Martial, which sat at Command Officers’ Mess, Asokoro, Abuja.
Judgement was delivered on February 7, 2020, sentencing Major Oseni to ten years imprisonment. The sentence was confirmed on November 24, 2020 by the Army Council.
Captain Amosu, Oseni’s co-accused was acquitted at the point of sentence on 7th February, 2020.The other two officers who were also jointly charged with him were discharged and acquitted during confirmation by the Army Council, on November 24, 2020.
Dissatisfied with the said judgment/findings and the confirmation of his sentence by the confirming authority, Major Oseni briefed Ozekhome on the matter.
By a notice of appeal dated January 28, 2021, and filed on October 11, 2021, by leave of the Court of Appeal granted on September 28, 2021, Ozekhome filed six grounds of appeal on behalf of Major Oseni.
Ozekhome argued the appeal on September 19, 2022, before the Court of Appeal, Abuja division, in a three-man panel presided over Hon. Justice Stephen Jonah Adah (presiding justice), Hon. Justice Mohammed Mustapha and Hon. Justice Bature Isa Gafai (as members); wherein judgment was reserved.
The Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgement on Monday, October 31, 2022, discharged and acquitted Major Akeem Aderogba Oseni (N/12127), of the charge of manslaughter punishable under sections 105(a) of the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20, LFN, 2004.
The court agreed with the argument of Ozekhome that the Nigerian Army did not prove the offence of manslaughter against the Major.
The court further agreed with Ozekhome that Oseni was not found to have been reckless in the manner he handled the deceased soldier on his superior’s instructions, which he merely carried out.
From evidence available to the lower court by which was not properly evaluated, Oseni did not intend to cause grievous bodily harm to the deceased as erroneously held by the trial court.
The court wondered why Major Oseni would be convicted alone of the same charge having the same ingredients with the charge on which his co-accused had all been discharged and acquitted.
The court found merit in the appeal, allowed it, and accordingly discharged and acquitted Major Oseni of the charges.