Justice Maureen Onyetenu of the Federal High Court in Owerri, Imo State, on Thursday, awarded a N200m court judgment against the Nigerian Army for killing a businessman, Noel Chigbu. Delivering the judgment, the jurist agreed with the applicant’s request that the Nigerian soldiers were liable for the killing of the businessman at Amakaohia flyover in Owerri on April 30, 2021. Although counsel for the applicant, Brigadier Gen. G.O. Anyalebechi (retd.), demanded N1bn in compensation for the killing of the businessman, the court settled for N200m.
Briefing our correspondent after the judgment, Anyalebechi said that he was satisfied with the court verdict. The counsel said, “I am satisfied with the judgment. Though we asked for N1bn, the court awarded N200m. The court found the Commander of the 34 artillery Brigade Command, Nigerian Army Obinze, and the Chief of Army Staff, liable.
“But the governor of Imo State and the Chief of Defence Staff were not found liable. This is so because, even though the governor of Imo State invited the military to Imo State, he was not the commanding officers of the soldiers who killed Noel Chigbu. The Chief of Defence Staff is not also the commanding officers of the soldiers who killed the businessman.
“In military jurisprudence, the Chief of Army Staff and the commander of 34 artillery Brigade Command Obinze are the commanding officers of the officers who killed Noel Chigbu. They are liable for what their subordinates did.
“Instead of the Chief of Army Staff and the commander of the 34 artillery Brigade command Obinze to punish the erring officers, they endorsed their actions. I am satisfied with the judgment but I am ready to meet them at the higher court if they want us to wash our dirty clothes in the public.”
The applicant and elder brother to the deceased, Tobechi Chigbu, said that though no amount of money could equate the life of their brother, the judgment was a relief to his family.
The deceased eldest brother and spokesperson for the family, Tobechi Chigbu, had informed journalists that some soldiers shot dead his brother on the day he took delivery of his new Toyota Camry car and was driving home at the close of work.
The distraught Tobechi said Noel was killed after dropping off his friend and heading home at Amakaohia in Owerri.
He had said that the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations in the state told the family that the soldiers said they shot his brother dead because he violated their checkpoint rule.
Tobechi had said, “Noel was one of my younger brothers. He would have been 39 on May 18, 2021, unfortunately, he was shot dead on the day he took delivery of his new vehicle. His corpse was dumped at the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri by the soldiers who killed him.”