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Air Force to pay N20m for human rights abuse


courtA High Court sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital and presided over by Justice Adam Onum has ordered the authorities of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), Makurdi to jointly or severally pay N20million to members of Akpen community for breaching the members’ fundamental rights to dignity of human persons.

Members of the community (Applicants) led by Clement Chia and seven others had in a suit filed by their counsel, Adi Demeer Esq, alleged that authorities of the Air Force (respondents) located adjacent to them in Makurdi forcefully ejected them, manhandled some of them and marked 150 structures for demolition.

They therefore demanded that the court restrain the Air Force authorities and make them to pay N5 billion for the violation of their human rights.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Onum stated that even as the respondents have the right to embark on any legitimate process or processes to claim right over the land the Akpen community is sited, they (respondents) are perpetually restrained from further embarking on acts of self-help against any member of the applicants’ community on account of any claim that the land on which such a member is sitting belongs to the Nigeria Air Force or any of the respondents.

I must stress that the government is entitled to pursue its debtors and recover from them all amounts legitimately due to it. The courts of law are established both for the people and the government authority. The government should not shy away from making use and taking advantage of the courts of law. It is a misconception to think that the measured speed with which the processes of court travel is too slow to the military.

Since the government has taken the civilized stand of observing the human rights provision of the 1999 Constitution and the rule of law, it cannot allow its image to be tarnished, stained and mutilated by abandoning the rule of law and resorting to the rule of force, which in the peculiar circumstances, is very barren. The rule of force wearing the kid glove of an edict can never usher in social justice. It only wears in the condemned face of law,” Justice Onum stressed.

He stated that even as the respondents’ counsel may seem to be attractive under the guise of national security, it cannot be acceptable to justify the ejection of the applicants from their habitations in brazen acts of self help.

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