• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Okuama community sues Nigerian Army over rights violations

Where is Sergeant Clement Yildar?

The Federal High Court in Warri has set June 4, 2024, as the date for the hearing of fundamental rights applications brought by members of the Okuama community in Ughelli South against the Nigerian Army. The presiding judge, Justice I. Sani, adjourned the case after hearing the counsel for the applicants during the proceedings in Warri.

The Okuama community has been embroiled in a crisis since the tragic murder of 17 soldiers on March 14, 2024, within the community.

In response to the destruction and alleged breach of fundamental rights suffered by the community and its residents, the Nigerian Army faces three separate lawsuits in the Federal High Court.

The suits filed include FHC/WR/CS/41/2024 and FHC/WR/CS/42/2024, as well as another lawsuit brought by a non-governmental organisation (NGO). In FHC/WR/CS/41/2024, Victor Akemor and 16 others are listed as applicants, with the Nigerian Army named as the respondent.

Similarly, in FHC/WR/CS/42/2024, Arthur Ekpekpo, Bernard Esegba, and James Oghohoko are listed as applicants, with the Federal Government, chief of defence staff, and others named as respondents.

In suit FHC/WR/CS/41/2024, the applicants, represented by their lawyer, Malcolm Omirhobo, have submitted a list of 15 prayers to the court seeking various forms of relief. Among these prayers is a request for an award of N1bn in “exemplary damages” against the Nigerian Army in favour of the applicants, the sum of N1bn as “general damage” against the respondent in favour of the applicants and residents of the Okuama community.

An order to compel the respondent to stop her troops from continued invasion of the Okuama community.

An order compelling the respondent to allow the applicants and the residents of the Okuama community to return home from the villages and bushes they are currently living as destitute.

A perpetual injunction of the court restraining the respondent, her servants, agents and/or privies from killing, embarrassing, bullying and dehumanising the applicants and the residents, as well as an order restraining the respondent, her servants and privies from further violating the fundamental rights of the people of the Okuama community.

Respondents in the suit were never present neither were they represented in court.

Addressing newsmen shortly after the court session, Joseph Abugu, said they were in court in furtherance of their rights in what transpired between the Nigerian Army and the people of the Okuama community.

Abugu said that the incident was already in the public domain, stressing that the Okuama community was invaded, razed to the ground and the indigene sent into the forest.

“They scattered all over the forest and they have not been able to return to their native community.

“While we pay reverence to the 17 officers who were gruesomely murdered by some individuals yet to be identified, we view that the action of the military invading Okuama community on a vengeance mission is unconstitutional, breach of the fundamental rights of the indigene and residents of the community.

“Since the court is the last hope of the common man, the Okuama community has no army of its own and it is powerless before the Nigerian Army.

“But before the court, we expect to get justice; that is why we are here,” he said.

The upcoming hearing on June 4 will be crucial in determining the outcome of the fundamental rights suits and addressing the grievances raised by the Okuama community against the Nigerian Army.