IT is heartening that more than 47 years after the Nigerian civil war, the Federal Government has begun to show genuine concern for its victims, and is ready to assuage their agony over that nightmarish chapter in the nation’s history. It is in this regard that we welcome government’s acceptance to pay the sum of N88 billion as compensation for the three-year war.
The agreement on the payment of compensation is the outcome of a consent judgment delivered recently by the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice. A breakdown of the compensation package, as adopted by the Court, showed that N50bn will be paid directly to the victims of the war in eleven states in the South-East, South-South and parts of the North-Central regions. The remaining N38bn will be used for the evacuation of abandoned bombs and other lethal weapons, as well as the construction of schools, courts, churches and mosques in the affected areas.
According to the consent judgment read by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke at the headquarters of the court in Abuja, the N50bn earmarked for direct victims of the war will be deposited in a specified account in the United Bank of Africa (UBA). The account belongs to the nominated counsel for the war victims, Chief Noel Agwuocha Chukwukadibia, a former Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly. The N38bn will be paid into another UBA account belonging to RSB Holdings and Deminers Concept (Nig) Ltd, which is expected to evacuate the abandoned bombs and other dangerous weapons in the farmlands, schools, churches and mosques of the war victims, and for construction works in the affected areas.
Other details of the consent judgment include an agreement that the Federal Government will establish a National Mining Action Centre in Owerri, the Imo State capital, for victims in the Southeast. It is also commendable that the judgment took cognizance of the need to ensure transparency and accountability in the compensation process, by mandating the Federal Government to “set up a Special Purpose Vehicle that will comprise all necessary stakeholders in the terms of settlement.”
In addition, it urged medical experts employed on behalf of the Federal Government to screen and identify the true victims of the war. In that connection, the judgment acknowledged that 685 persons were selected and classified as “survivors”, while 493 of them, including those who sued the Federal Government, were confirmed as victims of either landmines or other dangerous military ordinance, who will be entitled to compensation as well.
Besides, the judgment said the court found that a total of 17,000 bombs were recovered in the war-ravaged communities and consequently destroyed by Holdings and Deminers Concept, while 1,317 bombs are still in the stockpile located at the Mine Action Centre, Owerri, in addition to large quantities of live bombs that reportedly litter the communities ravaged by the civil war. .
We urge the Federal Government to take judicial notice of all the details of the consent judgment, as the court said. It should also take cognizance of its responsibilities to remove and destroy, without further delay, all the stockpiled bombs at the Nigerian Mine Action Centre at Ndubuisi Kanu Street, Owerri. Although the agony of war and the loss of loved ones cannot be erased by any amount of compensation, the consent judgment delivered by the ECOWAS Court of Justice offers the victims some succour and a chance to overcome some of the bitterness of the fratricidal war.
We urge Nigerians from all parts of the country to learn the necessary lessons from the war and avoid anything that could precipitate a crisis that could lead to another war. Regrettably, despite the fact that the Nigerian civil war ended with the claim that there was “No victor, no vanquished”, the promise of “Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation”, remains a mere platitude, which makes the affected states feel marginalised. There is, therefore, the need to begin to soothe the pains and remove all vestiges of the civil war that reportedly claimed more than three million lives, destroyed property and left many families traumatised, 47 years after.
There is an urgent need to unify all sections of the country. The fault lines that culminated in the civil war are, unfortunately, beginning to rear their ugly heads again. We should not allow them to lead to another crisis. Overall, the casualties of war are much more than those who died on the battlefield. Indelible wounds often remain in the hearts of all those who were unfortunate to have been in the theatres of conflict.