FromTONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State yesterday slammed N37.6 billion on the Federal Government over violation of human rights and destruction of Odi community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The money include N20 billion general and N17.6 billion ordinary damages. Justice Lambo Akanbi of Court 1, gave the ruling after the submissions from lawyers to the applicant, Chief Lucious Nwosu (SAN), Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and other Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), and counsel to the President and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mrs. Nkolika Awa, as well as lawyers to the Minister of Defence and Chief of Defence Staff (CDS),
Mallam Jimoh Adamu. Justice Akanbi said his ruling was based on the fact before the court that the destruction of Odi community was a violation of fundamental human rights, he gave the Federal Government 21 days to comply to the ruling. He said though the government was in pursuit of armed group that was terrorizing Odi area of Bayelsa, it was not justifiable to abuse of force.
He described the invasion as an abuse of military force and an infringement on the rights of the people. However, lawyers to Odi community (applicant) in their separate submissions, urged the court to grant the N20 billion compensation and a “total” apology to Odi people by the Federal Government over the destruction of lives and property. Meanwhile, Mrs. Awa, had earlier opposed the prayers with counter-affidavit, urging the court not to grant the prayers on grounds that Odi people were harbouring criminals, who were terrorizing the area, up to killing and burying seven policemen in their community.
She said that the government’s action in destroying Odi was done in good faith and not targeted at destroying the entire people, but to attack the armed groups in the area. Lawyer to the Minister of Defence and CDS, Mallam Adamu, opposed the judgment on grounds that he was not served, but was also opposed by the lead counsel to the applicant, Chief Nwosu, who told the court to check the records that the respondents were served through the Attorney-General of the Federation, wondering why others received theirs except him.
He also told the court to check the records that Mrs. Awa announced a watching brief for the defence minister and CDS in the court, at least, in two sittings. Addressing journalists shortly after the ruling on whether to appeal the judgement, Adamu said he would study it and know the next step to take. The case had lingered since 1999.