28 December 2013, Yenagoa – Indigenes of Odi community in Kolokuma-Opokuma local government area of Bayelsa State yesterday took their protest to the East-West road causing serious gridlock on the busy route over the federal government refusal to pay the sum of N37.6 billion compensation as directed by the court for the destruction of their community.
The protesters made up of the community youths, old women and men were armed with placards highlighting their plight and recalling the atrocities meted to their defenceless population by the Nigerian military over a decade ago.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that the protest was also to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the military invasion which left Odi, one of the biggest communities in Ijawland in rubles in the wake of the killing of some policemen by some hoodlums.
The indigenes of the community said they were forced to take their protest to the busy federal highway which straddled the states of the South South zone due to the continued refusal of the federal government to obey the court order to pay their community the sum of N37.6bn for the injustice visited on its population by the Nigerian military.
It took the intervention of the police to prevail on the protesters to vacate the busy road and returned to their community where a memorial service was held to commemorate the destruction/genocide unleashed on Odi.
Spokesman of Odi community, Lt Commander Koku Imananagha (rtd), warned that they might be forced to take their case to the international community if their appeal to the federal government to pay them as directed by the court failed to yield result.
Speaking on the long drawn legal battle which went in favour of his community, he said, it was their resolve from the beginning to take the path of justice in pursuit of this matter through the courts of the land even though it was a clear case of total destruction/genocide against Odi by federal government.
He said, “So, it was a big surprise to see a Human Right abuse case in this 21st millennium dragging for 14 years. Eventually, 19th February, 2013 the Federal High Court Port Harcourt presided over by Justice Lambo Akanbi in a substantive suit awarded Odi community the sum of N37.616,871,000 only as compensation for the destruction of Odi to be paid within 21 days.
Despite the Inge road to this victory the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigerian instead of taking the path of glory to put smiles on the faces of the long traumatized people of Odi, chose to take us through further legal battle.”
According to him, on March 12, 2013 the Federal High Court Port Harcourt still presided over by Justice Lambo Akanbi turned down a stay of execution filed by the Attorney General of the judgement sum without further delay to the law abiding citizens of Odi.
“Furthermore on 14th May, 2013, the Federal Appeal Court in Port Harcourt presided over by Justice Ejembi Eko granted the withdrawal application by the AGF for an out of court settlement with Odi community, for which the AGF did nothing thereafter.
“Consequently, on the 31st May, 2013, the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, gave a Garnishee a order Nisi compelling the garnishee (Central Bank of Nigeria) to pay the judgment Creditor/Applicant (Odi) the sum of N37,616,871,000. The Garnishee Order Nisi had a mandatory 17 days life span which gives the Federal Government yet another room to conclude the out of court settlement with Odi Community. This failed because of the inaction of the AGF.
“Finally, on 17th June 2013, the Federal High Court Judge Justice Lambo Akanbi pronounced as follows: That Garnishee Order Nisi is hereby made absolute directing the Garnishee (Central Bank of Nigeria) to pay the judgement sum of N37,616,871,000 which is judgement debt owed the Applicants by the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as epitomized by the judgment debtors.
“Accordingly, in view of the sequence of legal successes in our favour and inaction of the federal government to pay the judgement sum, the good people of Odi are now appealing to the a human rights organizations, NGOs, the press and all well meaning individuals and groups to prevail on the federal government of Nigeria to do the needful in accordance with the judgement of the courts without any further delay,” he said.
*Samuel Oyadongha, Vanguard