Zaki Biam: Group Moves Against Payment Of N8bn Judgement Debt To Suswam
BEVERLY HILLS, January 14, (THEWILL) – A group made up of 13 indigenes of Benue State who are of Tiv extraction Wednesday asked President Goodluck Jonathan not to pay the N8bn judgement debt in respect of the Zaki Biam killings to the state governor Gabriel Suswam .
They had earlier won a case against the Federal Government for the massacre of Tiv people in Benue State and N8bn was awarded against the Federal Government as compensation to the Tiv people.
The suit was filed by Dr. Alexander Gaadi and 13 others but Gaadi died while negotiation was on leaving the remaining 13 people as plaintiffs.
A Federal High Court which sat in Enugu had awarded to the litigants, N41.8 billion as compensation for the massacre of people in Zaki Biam and environs resulting from military invasion of the communities.
Following prolonged 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.
At a media briefing on Wednesday, counsel to the litigants, Mr. Sebastine Hon, SAN, with Messr Ocha Ulegede and Chris Alashi, disclosed that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN) had informed him that the President had directed that the money be paid to Governor Suswam.
But Hon said that the president's directive was morally wrong and in law because the Benue State Government was not a party to the case that resulted in the award of N41.8 Billion to the plaintiffs..
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.
“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,” Hon said.
Their counsel also accused the president of discriminating against the Tiv when he chose to pay N15 billion to kinsmen in Odi even though the judgment awarded in favour of the Odi people was N37 billion while the court awarded N41.8 billion in favour of the Tiv people for which the President agreed to pay to the people only N8billion.
According to Hon, “ 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 compromise sum of N15 billion was even higher in size than the Zaki Biam compromise sum of 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 our clients, as opposed to the N37 billion awarded in favour of Odi.”
Reminding the president 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 said: “Since the matter is before the Court of Appeal awaiting out-of-court settlement, we wonder whether it's Governor 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.”