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47 years after, government to pay Civil War victims N50b

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Ecowas Court

• To evacuate abandoned bombs with N38 billion
• Nigerians commend judgment

Forty-seven years after the Nigerian Civil War, the Federal Government yesterday accepted to pay the victims a total of N50 billion as compensation and spend N38 billion to evacuate abandoned bombs.

A breakdown of the compensation, as adopted by the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, showed that N50 billion is to be paid directly to the victims of the war in 11 affected states in the South-East, South-South and parts of the North-Central regions.

The remaining N38 billion will go 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 a consent judgment read by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke in Abuja yesterday, the Federal Government is expected to pay the N50 billion into the United Bank of Africa (UBA) account with number 1018230076 belonging to the nominated counsel for the war victims, Chief Noel Agwuocha Chukwukadibia, while the N38 billion is to be paid into another UBA account with number 1016296801 belonging to Deminers Concept Nigeria Limited for both RSB Holdings Nigeria Limited and Deminers Concept Nigeria Limited, who are expected to evacuate all the abandoned bombs and other dangerous weapons in farmlands, schools, churches and mosques of the war victims, and also, for carrying out construction.

Also, the Federal Government will, by the consent judgment, establish a National Mine Action Centre in Owerri, Imo State for victims in the South-East.
To ensure transparency and accountability, “the Federal Government will also set up a Special Purpose Vehicle that will comprise all necessary stakeholders in the terms of settlement.”

The consent judgment further indicated that medical experts employed on behalf of the Federal Government to screen and identify true victims of the war, acknowledged that 685 persons were selected and classified as survivors, while 493 of them, including those who sued the government, were confirmed as victims of either landmines or other dangerous military ordinance, including locally fabricated weapons, and consequently confirmed to be entitled to compensation.

The judgment further acknowledged that a total of 17,000 bombs were recovered in the war-ravaged communities and destroyed by RSB Holdings Limited and Deminers Concept Nigeria Limited, while a total of 1,317 bombs are still in the stockpile located at the Mine Action Centre, Owerri, Imo State, in addition to large quantities of live bombs that still liter communities of the war victims.

According to Justice Nwoke, the government, as part of its responsibilities, undertook to remove and destroy without further delay, all the stockpiled bombs at the Nigerian Mine Action Centre, located at plot 108, Ndubisi Kanu Street, New Owerri, Imo State.

It was also agreed that RSB Holdings Nigeria Ltd and Deminers Concept Nigeria Ltd, having satisfactorily performed the first phase of clearing and destroyed the post-war bombs, should be mobilised back to site to complete the final phase of the demining process.

The representative of the victims of the Nigerian Civil War, including the 493 victims as listed by the Federal Ministry of Defence, had through their agents, Vincent Agu and 19 others, taken the Federal Government to the ECOWAS court, demanding N100 billion compensation. They also sought an order of the court compelling government to clear and destroy all the bombs and other dangerous weapons abandoned in their various communities and farmlands since 1970.

The plaintiffs claimed that apart from physical injuries, the abandonment of the war weapons deprived them of the use of their farmlands, schools and churches, hence their demand for compensation.

Though the suit was filed at the regional court in 2012, the Federal Government opted for out-of-court settlement with the war victims, prompting the court to adopt the terms of settlement among parties as consent judgment delivered yesterday.

Key signatories to the terms of settlement include Noel Chukwukadibia and Alex Williams for the applicants, Chief Femi Falana (SAN), Sola Egbeyinka, Charles Uhegbu and Solomon Chukwuocha for government and its agencies, while Dr. Charles Onuoha and Chief Alams Chukwuemeka stood for the stakeholders.

In their reactions, Nigerians commended the verdict but expressed concern on how the money would be judiciously used for the benefit of the actual victims and the development of the affected areas.

Former President of Igbo socio-cultural group, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, said justice may be slow but will surely come. “That was what happened and we are very happy about it. We still expect more to come. This is what we have been telling the government but it decided to play the ostrich.”

The National Chairman, National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr. Yunusa Tanko, said it was a welcome development but he quickly added that instead of paying individuals such money as compensation, putting into consideration many factors, “it should be expended on projects for the development of the affected arears with proper monitoring by the government, otherwise it might end up not serving the actual purposes.”

The National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Mr. Ralph Nwosu, wondered why Nigeria should wait this long for an external court to intervene before taking a decision on issues that bothered on justice and equity.

“It was a good development, but it shows that the country lacks purposeful leadership that can on its own address justice and equity, and wherever that is lacking such a community can never develop.”

In a similar vein, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, hopes the decision of the ECOWAS Court would be adhered to by the Nigerian government. Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin said it was a good decision.



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