Abuja: A Nigerian court martial on Wednesday sentenced to death 54 soldiers convicted of mutiny after they allegedly refused to deploy for an operation against Boko Haram Islamists in the northeast, their lawyer said.
"They sentenced 54 to death and acquitted five," said prominent human rights lawyer Femi Falana, following a verdict in a trial that began on October 15 and was conducted behind closed doors.
Reporters were turned away from the court before the tribunal gave its verdict and military officials were not available for comment afterwards.
In a similar case in September, 12 soldiers were sentenced to death for mutiny after firing on their commanding officer in the northeast city of Maiduguri, where troops are battling against Boko Haram.
Frontline troops have consistently complained that they lack the weapons and other supplies needed to face Boko Haram in insurgent strongholds.
The Islamists, waging a five-year uprising to create a caliphate in northern Nigeria, are known to have tanks, rocket-propelled-grenade launchers and other heavy weaponry, while troops have reported lacking ammunition for basic AK-47 rifles.
After Boko Haram captured a series of towns in the northeast earlier this year, the military vowed to retake all lost territory.
The 7 Division, based in Maiduguri, was tasked with leading the offensive but there are numerous reports of troops refusing to deploy.
The men sentenced to death on Wednesday were part of the special forces division ordered in August to retake three lost towns in restive Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital.
The sentence is subject to approval by top army brass, but there has so far been no indication that senior officers oppose the court martial.