Nigeria reduces prison sentence for 27 peacekeepers

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Nigeria‘s army reduced the life sentence of 27 former UN peacekeepers convicted of mutiny for staging a protest over pay to seven years.

The Nigerian soldiers, four of them women, were convicted in April for a violent protest last year in the southwest town of Akure, the state capital of Ondo state.

“The sentence of life imprisonment given to all the convicted soldiers has been commuted to seven years imprisonment,” said army spokesman General Chris Olukolade yesterday.

The troops were pressing for the payment of tens of thousands of dollars of their peacekeeping allowance, which was embezzled by officers, Reuters reports.

They barricaded the busy Lagos-Ibadan-Abuja highway in July 2008 and harassed travellers, before looting shops in Akure.

“Soldiers cannot exercise the same rights or approach to protests like civilians. Those who argue … should consider the effect such acts of indiscipline can have on the security, orderliness and survival of other countries,” Olukolade said.

A court in January convicted four army officers and a soldier of stealing $68,541 from Nigerian troops returning from U.N. peacekeeping missions in Liberia.

The court had ordered the convicted officers be demoted after they were found guilty of diverting funds meant for peacekeeping troops to another military unit.

The officers, including a deputy director of finance at army headquarters, then paid the soldiers less than the $5,040 each approved by the United Nations, sparking the protest.



Pic: A Nigerian peacekeeper in Darfur, 2008.