Thirteen Tiv people who successfully sued the federal government for the massacre of their people in Zaki Biam and environs have asked Prescient Goodluck Jonathan to reverse his decision to pay the N8 billion judgment money to the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, counsel to the litigants, Mr. Sebastine Hon (SAN), with Messr Ocha Ulegede and Chris Alashi, said the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN) informed him that the president had directed that the money be paid to Suswam.
The case was filed by Dr Alexander Gaadi and 13 others. Gaadi died while the negotiation was still on leaving the remaining 13 people as plaintiffs.
Hon said the president’s directive was wrong morally and in law because the state government was not a party to the case that resulted in the award of N41.8 billion to the plaintiffs.
A Federal High Court in Enugu had awarded to the litigants, N41.8 billion as compensation for the massacre of people in Zaki Biam and its environs resulting from the military invasion of the communities.
Following series of negotiations between the litigants and the federal government, the N41.8 billion was negotiated downward to N8 billion which the federal government agreed to pay to the people.
Hon described the directive by the president as shocking and embarrassing, saying the Attorney General of the Federation as the nation’s number one chief law officer should have advised the president that a person who was not a party in a suit could not be given the proceeds of a judgment.
He said:”We therefore request with due respect to your exalted office that this directive be reversed immediately, to avoid the federal government paying the money twice.”
The lawyers also accused the president of discriminating against the Tiv people when he chose to pay N15 billion to his kinsmen in Odi even though the judgment awarded in favour of the Odi people was N37 billion while the court awarded N41.8billion in favour of the Tiv people for which the president agreed to pay only N8billion.
Hon added:” We are either aggrieved on the manner your government handled the Odi massacre affair, vis-a-vis the Zaki Biam massacre affair, for the following reasons:
“The Odi massacre affair was later in time than that of Zaki Biam but was resolved out of court earlier than that of the latter.
“The Odi sum of N15 billion was even higher in size than the Zaki Biam N8 billion, even though Odi is just one community as opposed to the massacre in Benue State which cut across the four local government areas of Ukum, Logo, Katsina-Ala and Kwande.
“The fact that a higher amount of N41.8billion was awarded in favour of our clients as opposed to the N37 billion awarded in favour of Odi.”
Hon also reminded President Jonathan that the appeal filed at the Court of Appeal by the federal government in respect of the judgment was still pending and that the out of court settlement had not yet been signed by the parties for the court to adopt as its judgment.
Hon continued: “Since the matter is before the court of appeal awaiting out-of-court settlement, we wonder whether it’s Suswam who would be signatory to the out-of-court settlement terms to be adopted as the consent judgment of the court of appeal.
“In law, it is never heard of strangers coming to enforce the judgment!
“We hereby boldly state that it is both morally and legally wrong for those instructions as communicated to us by the Attorney-General of the Federation, to have been issued by your good and exalted self. Perhaps, you were misled in issuing such instructions.”