People of Gbaramatu communities of Delta State, on Monday, January 18, got a court in London, the United Kingdom, to register the judgment of the Federal High Court, Asaba, which ordered the Federal Government to pay the people N99.9 billion damages for gross violation of their rights by the Joint Task Force.
Justice of Holroyde of the Queen’s Bench Division of the Royal High Court of Justice England and Wales had ordered that the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Buba in the sum of N99.9 billion obtained in Federal High Court Asaba, in December 2013, be registered in England against Major-General Sarkin Yarkin Bello (now retired) who was the commander of the Delta State Joint Task Force.
The task force, on May 5, 2009, descended on the community, killing and maiming innocent residents, while property worth billions of naira were equally destroyed.
The communities came together and filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Asaba, on June 22, 2009.
Their lawyer, Mr Selekeowei Larry, filed the suit against the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Major-General Bello (for himself and on behalf of the Joint Task Force in Delta State) as first, second and third defendants, respectively.
The people, among other reliefs, asked the court to declare the bombardment unconstitutional and a gross violation of their rights.
After hearing the plaintiffs and the defendants, Justice Ibrahim Buba held as follows: “That the bombardment of the plaintiffs’ communities in the Gbaramatu Kingdom of Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State by the defendants resulting in the demolition/destruction of houses, household furniture/wares, boats, canoes, domestic animals and displacement of members of the communities is in violation of section 217 (2)(c) of the 1999 constitution and is, therefore, unconstitutional.
“That the sum of N49 billion is awarded in favour of the plaintiffs as special damages against the defendants jointly severally.
“That the sum of N50 billion is also awarded as aggravated and punitive damages against the defendants jointly and severally for the unlawful bombardment and sacking of the plaintiffs’ communities, which resulted in wanton destruction of their houses, household furniture and other wares, their domestic animals, canoes, boats, sacred places, artifacts etc and which resulted in total displacement of members of the communities for minimum of three months from May 15, 2009, the effect of which was that members of the communities were living in the swampy mangrove forests in sub human conditions, while others were in a concentration camp and suffered loss of income, disease, and mental torture and the education of their children of school age was disrupted.”
Before applying to the Queen Bench Division High Court of Justice in London to register the judgment, the communities wrote twice to the then Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, asking the Federal Government to comply with the judgment.
However, two years after the judgment was delivered, the government neither complied with it nor challenged it on appeal.
In registering the judgment in London, the communities are seeking to obtain a worldwide freezing injunction against the assets of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
However, the London court declined to register the judgment against the president of Nigeria and the Attorney-General, but registered it against Major-General Sarkin Yakin Bello the third defendant, who is jointly and severally liable.