The Supreme Court has discharged and acquitted Sergeant Akawu Bala of the Nigerian Army, who faced murder charges stemming from a 2012 incident.

Bala had been imprisoned in Kaduna since 2012 after a general court-martial sentenced him to death for allegedly shooting Isa Mohammed with an AK-47 rifle on December 9, 2012. Mohammed succumbed to his injuries the following day at Saint Gerald’s Catholic Hospital in Kaduna.

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Initially found guilty under Section 106 of the Armed Forces Act 2014 and sentenced to death by hanging, Bala’s conviction was overturned by the Kaduna Court of Appeal on February 17, 2017. The appellate court ruled the trial invalid as the charge sheet was not signed by a General Officer Commanding (GOC) as required by law. Despite this, Bala was not released, prompting his appeal to the Supreme Court on March 16, 2017.

Bala’s lawyer, Reuben Atabo, contended that Bala should have been discharged following the nullification of his trial. He referenced Section 193 of the Armed Forces Act 2014, which prohibits retrial after a voided trial.

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The Nigerian Army, represented by Isaac Udoka, sought a retrial. However, the Supreme Court, led by Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, upheld Bala’s discharge. The court cited Section 193 of the Armed Forces Act 2014, stating Bala could not be retried for the same offenses. The court ordered Bala’s immediate release from Kaduna prison.

Throughout the proceedings, Bala maintained he acted in self-defense, claiming he fired at Mohammed and another individual in the dark during a period of heightened Boko Haram attacks. He asserted that he had instructed them to stop, but they continued to approach, causing him to fear for his safety.