2009 MILITARY BOMBARDMENT: Why FG must pay N100 billion judgment debt to Gbaramatu kingdom ordered by Asaba Federal High Court
By GbaramatuVoice Editorial Board
It is not in any standard a good commentary that the Federal Government of Nigeria has remained in default years after a Federal High Court sitting in Asaba declared unconstitutional the bombardment of Gbaramatu Kingdom, comprising of 53 communities, by the Joint Task Force (JTF) during the military raid of 2009 and consequently ordered the Federal Government to pay the kingdom the sum of N100 billion in damages.
For a better understanding of the commentary, it is important to stress that following the raid of militant camps in the Delta Creeks and the consequent bombardment of Gbaramatu Kingdom in 2009, leaders of Gbaramatu kingdom approached Asaba Federal High court seeking the declaration of the raid as unconstitutional as the militant camps were not located in the communities. They also accused the JTF of wanton destruction of properties and loot of the communities and consequently demanded N100 billion in damages.
In his judgment on December 5, 2013, Justice Ibrahim Buba in suit number FHC/ASB/CS/138.2009, held that the massive bombardment, which resulted in the demolition, destruction of houses, household furniture/wares, boats, canoes, domestic animals and displacement of members of the communities, was a clear violation of Section 217(2)(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
While granting the prayers of the plaintiffs, Justice Buba averred that the 3rd defendant (JTF) acted outside the law by destroying lives and property of the 53 communities, more so his failure to appear in court to state their own side of the story was an acceptance of the claims of the plaintiffs. He therefore granted the prayers as made by the Gbaramatu kingdom-ordering the Federal Government to pay N100 billion in damages as demanded by the affected communities that made up the kingdom.
This month of December, 2022, made it exactly nine (9) years that the well considered decision/judgment was handed down. But the Federal Government either by choice or default has chosen to remain in debt.
Compounding the situation is the fact that they (Federal Government) have neither appealed the judgment nor respected the court’s directive/order.
Without doubt, GbaramatuVoice can spot ugly interpretations that flow from the above Federal Government’s flagrant disobedience to decision/order/directive by a court of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria.
First, it goes to show how unwilling the Federal Government is unwilling to obey legitimate decisions and the rule of law.
Secondly, If the Federal Government that is constitutionally mandated to be the custodian of the law is now found wanting and in default, what moral or constitutional right will it have to enforce such disobedience when it comes from a corporate organization or an individual?
Thirdly, Federal Government’s nonpayment or refusal to pay depicts a government that is unmindful of the fact that Government is a continuum.
Finally, looking at these realities, worries and considerations, GbaramatuVoice calls on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to take practical steps to settling this judgment debt as it is long overdue. The newspaper is of the view that doing this (payment of debt), will increase the peoples’ belief/trust in the present administration.
Most importantly, payment of this debt will posture the present administration as a government that not only cares but obeys the rule of law.
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