By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—-The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday, directed the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to forthwith, pay the sum of N8billion to Tiv communities in Logo, Ukum, Kwande and Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas of Benue State, to cover for damages they suffered when their towns were invaded in 2001 by soldiers of the Nigerian Army.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Iyang Ekwo, made the garnishee order to enforce a consent judgment the Enugu State Division of the Court of Appeal delivered on February 2, 2015.
Even though Justice Ekwo earlier granted an application the communities brought for the initial order of “garnishee nisi”, at the resumed proceeding on Monday, he made the garnishee order “absolute”.
Consequently, he ordered CBN to pay the N8bn into an interest-yielding account to be opened and maintained in First Bank of Nigeria Plc by the Chief Registrar of the court.
The court said it would later issue an order for the disbursement of the money after the CBN complies with the payment order, stressing that terms of the disbursement would be signed by first class chiefs of Jukun, Logo, Kwande, Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas on behalf of the Tiv Traditional Council.
Specifically, Justice Ekwo held: “The garnishee (CBN) is hereby ordered to pay the garnishee sum into an interest-yielding account to be opened and maintained by the Chief Registrar of this court in First Bank of Nigeria Plc.
“The order authorising the disbursement of the money shall be made upon being satisfied with the terms of disbursement including the legal fees jointly singed by Ocha Ulegede, Esq, and J.K Gadzama, SAN, for the ganishors and endorsed by first-class chiefs of Jukun, Logo, Kwande, Katsina-Ala local government areas on behalf of the Tiv Traditional Council.”
The orders followed two suits that was initiated on behalf of the communities by 14 plaintiffs, Dr. Alexander Gaadi, Peter Orngu, Terfa Akaagba, Anongo Unishigh, Ngunengen Adula, Demelu Adula, Zaki Mazan, Mbakesen Ayatse, Mbayemen Maswuan, Anande Agashia, Azenda Igo, Elizabeth Aoughakaa, and Andrew Juntu.
Cited as defendants in the suits that were consolidated by the court, were, the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces (then President Olusegun Obasanjo), the then Minister of Defence, Chief of Army Staff and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The plaintiffs told the court that their communities suffered irreparable losses in terms of both properties and lives as a result of the military invasion that took place around March, 2001.