The General Court Martial sitting in Abuja has struck out the charge of cowardly behaviour preferred against a former Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, Brig. Gen. Enitan Ransome-Kuti, The PUNCH has learnt.
Our correspondent however learnt that Ransome-Kuti’s trial will continue as he has two other charges of failure to perform military duties and miscellaneous offences relating to loss of the army’s armaments still pending against him.
The senior army officer is a son of the late pro-democracy and human rights activist, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, and nephew to the late Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
He was arraigned before the court along with others in June this year for the charges which arose from the attack by Boko Haram terrorists on the Headquarters of the MNJTF, then in Baga, Borno State, on January 3, 2015.
He was accused of cowardly abandoning his post, neglecting his duties, and failing to account for the army’s armament in his custody during and after the terrorists’ attack.
The armament he allegedly could not account for, according to the army authorities, comprised three multipurpose light-armoured towing vehicles (MTLB in Russian), three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, two pan herd, three Sagie, one VBL amoured vehicle, eight general purpose machine guns, eight browning machine guns, two trucks, 12 Hilux vehicles and large quantity of ammunition.
The Maj. Gen. O.E. Ekanem-led court was said to have struck out the charge of cowardly behaviour preferred against Ransome-Kuti following a no-case submission application which the accused filed after the prosecution called three witnesses to prove its case.
Journalists had been barred from covering the proceedings of the court-martial.
But our correspondent learnt that with the court striking out one of the charges against him on August 12, 2015, Ransome-Kuti is left to face charges of failure to perform military duties and miscellaneous offences relating to loss of the army’s armaments.
The prosecution subsequently called three witnesses after the accused persons were arraigned.
But, Ransome-Kuti had, through his counsel, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) and Maj. Femi Oyebanji (retd), filed the no-case submission contending that the prosecution had failed to prove its case to warrant him opening his defence.
But the court was said to have upheld the argument of the defence lawyers only with respect to their objection to the charge of cowardice.
Our correspondent sighted a copy of the defence’s no case submission on Tuesday.
In their analysis of the charge of cowardly behaviour, the defence lawyers, argued that the evidence of the first prosecution witness which was to prove the allegation was incoherent.
The lawyers maintained that from the evidence adduced by the prosecution, it was clear that Ransome-Kuti never abandoned MNJTF in Baga on January 3, 2015.
The lawyers added that under the situation whereby the command lacked the needed equipment, the accused was justified “by the absence of hope or relief, inability to offer further resistance or the certainty or extreme probability that no further efforts could prevent the place, post or thing falling into enemy hands.”
The lawyers also denied the charge of failure to perform military duty, arguing that the prosecution failed to adduce evidence on their client’s schedule of duties to show which of them he performed negligently.