Published On: Fri, May 3rd, 2024

Okuama Bloodbath: Court Commences Sitting Hearing On  Villagers’ N100bn Suit Against Army

JUDICIARY 3

LAGOS MAY 3RD (URHOBOTODAY)-The Federal High Court in Warri, Delta State, on Thursday, commenced sitting on a N100bn lawsuit filed by indigenes of Okuama community in Ughelli North Local Government Area against the Nigeria Army, challenging the military invasion and destruction of the community.

The military invasion and vandalism of the Okuama community came on the heels of the March 14, 2024 killing of 17 military officers and soldiers said to be on a peace mission following a communal clash between Okuama and neighbouring Okoloba community in the Bomadi LGA.

The suit, marked FHC/WR/CS/41/2024, has as plaintiffs 17 members of the Okuama community suing for themselves and on behalf of the entire community.

The plaintiffs are Victor Akemor, Madam Omotiwori Olarehor, Victor Odi, Okrika Emmanuel, Austin Eferemua, Evelyn Edjekola, Pa James Ubredu, David Oghenewede, Lucky Orode, Iwriogbo Best, Felix Orhiunu, Bernard Michael, Oghene Kobiruo, Vero joseph, Ebikawe Emmanuel, Francis Uphurie and Hon. Belvis Adogbo.

TThe Nigerian Army is the main respondent in the case.

At the Thursday proceedings, the plaintiffs were represented by their lawyer, Ak??k??? Omafuaire, but there was no legal representation for the Army.

Omafuaire told Justice I. M. Sani that the court had jurisdiction to hear the fundamental rights suit, citing sections 36, 37, 41, 44(1), 45 and 46 of the 1999 Constitution.

The judge adjourned till June 4 for hearing.

The plaintiffs, in their 15-point prayer, want the court to award in their favour against the Nigerian Army N100bn as general damages for allegedly violating their “fundamental right to the dignity of the  human person, right to a fair hearing, right to private and family life, freedom of movement, right of choice of place of residency and right to own property.”

They alleged that the military violated their rights through the “destruction and razing down of the whole buildings in the Okuama community, leaving only the Anglian Church the Okuama Secondary School and the Aderha Primary School buildings standing.”

They also accused the military of “looting  our moveable properties.”

They said the action of the military, burning Okuama community amounted to “abuse of power to oppress, repress and subjugate the applicants and residents of the Okuama community.”

They want a court declaration that “the respondent’s deployment of troops for the invasion and brutal reprisal on the applicants and residents of Okuama community over the death of 17 soldiers, which they have no hands in, without any police investigation or any public inquiry indicting them for the crime” was unlawful.

The plaintiffs accused the military of “dishing out collective punishment to the community, killing, maiming, brutalising. harassing, intimidating, coercing, demolishing, destroying and razing our  properties, leaving only the Anglian Church, the Okuama Secondary School and the Aderha Primary School buildings standing.”

They said the military invasion made them

flee “to various towns, villages, forest, bushes and creeks for safety living the life of destitute under torturous, inhuman, degrading and excruciating conditions without shelter, food, drinking water, medication, money or means of income, and clothes.”

They said they were exposed to the “weather, snakes and mosquitos.”

flee “to various towns, villages, forest, bushes and creeks for safety living the life of destitute under torturous, inhuman, degrading and excruciating conditions without shelter, food, drinking water, medication, money or means of income, and clothes.”

They said they were exposed to the “weather, snakes and mosquitos.”

They an order of the court “compelling the respondent to stop her troops continued invasion and occupation of the Okuama community to enable the applicants and residents of the Okuama community to take back possession of their land that has been illegally and unlawfully seized and occupied by the respondent to rebuild their community.”

Punch

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