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POLITICS & GOVERNMENTSOCIETY

Zaki-Ibiam People Disown Benue Govt over N41.8bn Judgment Debt

Moves by the Federal and Benue State Governments to negotiate the payment of N41.8 billion compensatory damages awarded the victims of 2001 Zaki-Ibiam armed soldiers invasion for loss of lives and properties have been refused by some of the victims.

The victims denied the knowledge of move by the Federal Government to settle them with N8 billion through the state government in lieu of the judgment and insisted that Benue State has no authority to act on their behalf. In a petition to President Goodluck Jonathan, the victims expressed displeasure that they were not consulted before the alleged out of court settlement was reached.

In the petition dated March 11, 2013, the victims represented by their counsel, Chief Sebastian Hon (SAN), praised the move by the Federal Government to honour the judgment but said no  Benue State government official had been given the  authority to negotiate for payment of N8 billion  as full and final satisfaction of the judgment sum.

A Federal High Court had six years ago awarded N41.8 billion damages against the Federal Government for the loss of lives and property incurred by the people of Zaki-Ibiam during the soldiers brutal attacks on their communities in 2001. The petitions signed by Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN) and delivered to the Presidency Monday read in part: “Our clients are deeply worried that over two weeks after they wrote to you through our office, there has been no reply from your high office, in spite of the weight of the issues we raised in our first letter on the matter.

“Rather, our clients have continued to read in the media about alleged settlement between the Federal Government and the Benue State Government for the judgment debt to be reduced from N41.8 billion to a mere N8 billion. “More worrisome, is the fact that those media stories started surfacing immediately after we wrote to your respected office demanding for payment of the entire judgment sum. “Our clients have instructed us to inform you in the strongest possible terms, yet with utmost respect to your good and exalted self and office, that they did not at any time brief anybody, particularly any official of the Benue State Government, to negotiate for payment of the sum of N8 billion as full and final satisfaction of the judgment sum above-stated.

“The actual and collateral damage done to our clients and millions of other persons who were directly or indirectly affected by the genocide of 2001 cannot even be compensated in monetary terms; hence any insinuation that the sum of N41.8 billion awarded by the Federal High Court is too big an amount is, with respect, not well-grounded.”

“As we humbly pleaded with Your Excellency in our previous correspondence, we hereby reiterate that as the father of the nation, and given the enormous psychological and real damage caused the TIV people by the rampaging soldiers in 2001, it is just fair, just and reasonable that this entire judgment sum be paid to our clients through our office and to other judgment creditors, to avoid a feeling among the fourth largest tribe in Nigeria, the Tiv nation, of deliberate government alienation. “The blood of the victims of the Zaki Ibiam genocide, both living and dead, is crying for justice, more than twelve years after the genocide; and more than six years after the Federal High Court awarded compensatory damages to the hapless victims of that infamy.”

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