A Federal High Court on Monday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay the sum of N8bn awarded in favour of some Tiv communities over soldiers’ invasion of the community in 2015.
The order was in respect of a judgement debt awarded against the Federal government in 2002.
A High Court and the Court of Appeal in Mukurdi, Benue State and Enugu had entered judgment in favour of the plaintiffs but the government failed to comply with the decision of the court, resulting in the garnishee order.
No fewer than 14 persons suffered various degrees of losses during the military attack had applied to the court to enforce the consent judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal in Enugu on February 2, 2015.
The plaintiffs include Dr. Alexander Gaadi, Peter Orngu, Terfa Akaagba, Anongo Unishigh, Ngunengen Adula, Demelu Adula, Zaki Mazan, Mbakesen Ayatse, Mbayemen Maswuan, Anande Agashia, Azenda Igo, Elizabeth Aoughakaa, and Andrew Juntu.
The affected communities spread across Logo, Ukum, Kwande and Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas of Benue.
In his ruling on the garnishee application Monday, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that there was nothing standing as impediment to the payment of the N8bn since the respondents had consented to it at the Court of Appeal.
According to him, since the judgment debtors/appellants entered into terms entered by the Court of Appeal in appeal number CA/E/410/2008 as judgment of February 2, 2015, it was a clear and unambiguous expression and readiness of the judgment debtors to pay the sum agreed therein to the ganishors.
“Upon studying the averments in the six-paragraph affidavit to show cause deposed to on March 28, 2017 by one Huseini Sani Kagai, and three-paragraph further affidavit showing cause deposd to on May 8, 2017, by the same Huseini Sani Kagai, I am unable to see any contrary issue or impediment established by the garnishee that would constitute a cause shown by the garnishee why the order nisi these proceedings ought not to be made absolute and I so hold.”
The judge subsequently ordered the garnishee (CBN) “to pay the garnishee sum into an interest-yielding account to be opened and maintained by the Chief Registrar of this court in First Bank of Nigeria Plc.
“The order authorising the disbursement of the money shall be made upon being satisfied with the terms of disbursement including the legal fees jointly singed by Ocha Ulegede, Esq, and J.K Gadzama, SAN, for the ganishors and endorsed by first class chiefs of Jukun, Logo, Kwande, Katsina-Ala local government areas on behalf of the Tiv Traditional Council.”
The judge added that he would subsequently make an order for the disbursement of the money after the CBN complies with the order for the payment.
The plaintiffs in two separate suits instituted urged the court to declare the use of the Army as genocidal, and the continued occupation of their communities by the soldiers as undemocratic and unconstitutional.
Sued as defendants are the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces (then President Olusegun Obasanjo), then Minister of Defence, Chief of Army Staff and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
In their consolidated suits which they originally instituted in the Federal High Court in Markurdi but were later transferred to Enugu Division of the court, the 14 plaintiffs alleged that the Army was used against the Tiv race under the pretext of settling communal conflicts.
In one of the two suits, marked FHC/MKD/CS/6/2002, they sought N60bn as damages against the respondents for “brutally and untimely terminating the lives” of the plaintiffs’ parents, daughters and brothers” as well as for the “permanently depriving” some of the plaintiffs their body parts such as manhood and hands of some of them subjecting them “to mental and psychological pains and anguish”.
In the other suit marked: FHC/MKD/CS/41/2001, the plaintiffs asked for the sum of N32bn as compensation in addition to a public apology.
While the Federal High Court Enugu in its judgment on the consolidated suits on July 5, 2007, awarded N10bn in favour of the plaintiffs, the Court of Appeal in its judgment on the FG’s appeal against the decision of the lower court awarded the sum of N8bn damages in favour of the the Benue communities in a consent judgment delivered on February 2, 2015.