By Christiana Nwaogu, Abuja –
The federal government has agreed to pay N50billion as compensation to victims of the Civil War in some affected states in the country.
Communities to benefit are some from the South- South, South -East and parts of North-Central that suffered losses during the Nigeria Civil War of 1966 and 1970 and have lived with dangerous abandoned landmines.
This was the outcome of the consent judgement delivered by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in a suit filed by Chief Vincent Agu and 19 others on negligence by the federal government to remove remnants of landmines and explosives from the civil war, yesterday in Abuja.
The federal government also agreed to remove the remaining unexploded military ordinances such as landmines, locally fabricated weapons and a stock pile of bombs spotted in about 1, 317 identified locations in the three zones within two months.
Apart from settling the N50 billion claim, the government also agreed to pay contractors handling the projects a separate N38 billion to carry out total de-mining, destruction of bombs as well as rebuilding of public structures destroyed, conclude mine center activities including provision of alternative classrooms in communities where schools were used as storage areas for mines.
Before the matter was brought to the court, the government through the Ministry of Defence had commissioned a landmine clearing firm to pick-up the left-over military ordinances but work stopped midway as a result of the large number of abandoned unexploded bombs discovered and the initial refusal of the government to review the contract upward.
According to the terms of agreement, the contractor will be paid to remove 1317 explosives sill discovered at various locations in the three zones after the evacuation and destruction of 17, 000 bombs in the initial operation while the Mine Action Centre located in Owerri, Imo State which has a stock pile of several bombs left over by Nigerian and Biafran soldiers will be cleaned-up.
When the case came up for hearing on Monday, Chief Uzoma Onyeike, leading five other counsels for the applicants urged the court to adopt the terms of settlement as consent judgement to save the time of the court since the parties have agreed to settle out of court.
Chief Charles Uhegbu leading three other counsels for the defendants aligned themselves with the arguments of the applicants’ counsel by urging the court to accept the terms of settlement as a consent judgment.
In its ruling, the three member ECOWAS Court adopted the terms of settlement as a consent judgement as contained in the signed documents tendered before the court and thereby closed the case which has lasted for about seven years.
Recall that several farmers in the three zones have lost their lives as a result of unexploded landmines and other military ordinances left behind by soldiers after the war.
The suit, filed by Mr Vincent Agu and 19 others against the federal government in 2012, had claimed that the government had failed to remove remnants of landmines and explosives since the end of the civil war in 1970.