BIAFRAN WAR VICTIMS LAMENT AS FG STALL PAYMENT OF N88bn COMPENSATION
Victims of the Nigeria/Biafra civil war, yesterday, said the Federal Government had yet to pay them, more than two months after it agreed to release N88 billion for their compensation.
The government had in an agreement it entered before the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, on October 30, 2017, said part of the fund would be used for the completion of demining and destruction of abandoned explosives within the South-East, South-South and North Central regions of the country.
Specifically, the Federal Government had in the terms of agreement before the regional court, stressed that while N50billion compensation would be paid to “true victims” of the civil war that occurred between 1967 and 1970. It also said N38 billion would be paid to contractors for total and complete demining and destruction of abandoned bombs and landmines within the regions.
The decision followed a suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/06/12, which was filed before the ECOWAS Court on May 2, 2012, by one Vincent Agu and 19 others against the Federal Government and five others.
A statement the group sent to our correspondent through their leaders, Egobudike Monday Ogbowu and Ndu Pedro, read: “On behalf of BIAFRA Civil War soldiers from Rivers state who were granted pardon and were promised to be paid off by the President Mohammadu Buhari-led government to permanently end the case in ECOWAS Court, we want to state that we have not heard or received anything.
“Federal Government had as part of the terms of agreement, promised to effect the payment through Chukwukadibia & Co and Deminers Concept Nigeria Ltd, but up till now we have not gotten gotten anything and it is making us to wonder if the Federal Government and Chukwukadibia & Co and Deminers Concept Nigeria Ltd are playing politics with it?
“If they are not playing politics with us, we urge the Federal Government to come out open and tell us the situation of things and the reason behind the delay in the payment.”
The government opted for an out-of-court- settlement of the matter after four years negotiation period.
According to the agreement document which the ECOWAS court adopted as its consent judgment, two firms, RSB Holdings Nigeria Limited and Deminers Concept Nigeria Limited, were said to have been contracted in 2009 to carry out demining exercise in the war affected areas.
The government told the court that after an exercise that was conducted by medical experts that were employed by the two contractors to screen and identify true victims of the war, “All the parties to this suit acknowledge that 685 persons were selected and classified as survivors while 493 of them were confirmed as victims of either landmines or other dangerous military ordnance including locally fabricated weapons, hence entitled to compesation including their families and communities.”
“Whereas the parties also acknowledged that a total of over 17, 000 bombs were recovered and destroyed by the 4th and 5th Respondents (the contractors), while a total of 1, 317 are still in the stockpile located at the Mine Action Center, Owerri, Imo State, large quantity of live bombs still litter the Applicant’s communities”.
States listed to benefit from the deal were Anambra, Imo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Ebonyi, Cross River, Abia, Enugu and Benue.
However, over two months after the terms of settlement was entered by the ECOWAS court, a group of Biafra war veterans from Rivers State, told Vanguard yesterday that they had not heard nor received anything from the government.
The government had before the ECOWAS Court, said it would pay the compensation within 45 days from the day the consent judgment was entered in the matter.
Meantime, effort to get reaction of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, proved abortive as calls placed to his telephone line were not answered as at press time.
The plaintiffs had in the suit they filed for themselves and as representatives of victims of the Nigerian civil war, including all the 493 victims pre-enumerated by the Ministry of Defence, demanded N100m as compensatory and general damages.