Pius Nwaoga

10.05.2010 ( Last modified: 25.05.2016 )
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Nwaoga is a native of Ibagwa Nike, Nigeria.

During the civil war that took place in Nigeria between 1967 and 1970, Pius Nwaogajoined the rebel forces known as Biafran Army. He joined as a private and later become a lieutenant. He was deployed to Ibagwa Nike, which was, at that time, in the hands of the Federal troops.

Before July 1969, Nwaoga was posted in command of a rebel company to a town called Olo. In July 1969, he was summoned to Atta and instructed to lead two lieutenants to kill Robert Ngwu, who was also a soldier in the rebel forces.
Major Nwoye, who gave Nwaoga the instructions, told him the instructions had come down from the “State House”.

Nwaoga, in obedience to the instructions given him, took the two lieutenants who would eliminate Ngwu to Nike. They went to Robert Ngwu’s house and there, in the presence of Nwaoga, one of the lieutenants killed Robert Ngwu and another. They all ran away.

Pius Nwaoga was apprehended later and brought to trial.


legal procedure

Pius Nwaoga was apprehended later and brought to trial.

Before the trial court, in Nigeria, Nwaoga argued that he had to obey the orders of his superior officers.

The learned trial judge considered in his judgment the case of R. v. Smith (1900), and said: “ It was held that a soldier is responsible by military and civil law and it is monstrous to suppose that a soldier could be protected when the order is grossly and manifestly illegal. Of course, there is the other proposition that a soldier is only bound to obey lawful orders and is responsible if he obeys an order not strictly lawful.” He went on: “In the case before me that order to eliminate the deceased was given by an officer of an illegal regime, his orders therefore are necessarily unlawful and obedience to them involves a violation of the law and the defence of superior orders is untenable.”

Therefore, Nwaoga was condemned for the murder of Robert Ngwu and sentenced to death.

Puis Nwaoga appealed to the Supreme court of Nigeria, arguing that the learned trial judge was wrong to have adopted the attitude that the order in this case was an order by an officer of an illegal regime.

It was submitted that in a civil war, the status of an illegal regime or rebels cannot be considered differently, and officers in that regime are entitled to give orders to junior officers in the same way as officers do in a legal and recognised regime, and that such orders must be carried out by the junior officers; that in carrying out such orders, junior officers in the one case are protected in the same way as in the other case.

According to the Supreme court of Nigeria, deliberate and intentional killing of an unarmed person living peacefully inside the Federal Territory as in this case is a crime against humanity, and even if committed during a civil war is in violation of the domestic law of the country, and must be punished.

Therefore, in the event, the conviction of the appellant was upheld and his appeal was dismissed by the Supreme court on 3 March 1972.


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