Court to deliver judgment on 15TH June 2020 in case brought by 34 compulsory retired army officers against the Nigerian governemnt

Judgment will be delivered on 15th June 2020 by the Community Court of Justice ECOWAS in a case brought against the Federal Republic of Nigeria by 34 Army Officers who are challenging as “unlawful,’ their compulsory retirement by the Nigerian Army four years ago.

The court fixed the judgment after closing oral hearing on 19th March 2020 in the suit filed by Ruth Ochankpa, the widow of one of the affected officers, late Lieutenant Colonel O.A. Baba-Ochankpa and 33 others and ordered that written submission of all written addresses should be filed before the Court on or before 1st May 2020 to enable the court study it prior to the judgment.

Led in evidence by their counsel, Mr. Abdul Mohammed, the first and second witnesses, retired Col. Mohammed Awal Suleiman and retired Lt. Col Abdulfatai Mohammed, at the time of their retirement Defence Attache at the Chadian Embassy and Commanding Officer of a unit of the Army fighting the Boko Haram in Kundoga North East Nigeria respectively, narrated how they were along with 32 others on 9th June 2016 compulsorily retired through a letter from the Office of the Military Secretary of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

They averred that their letters of compulsory retirement contained mere allegations relating to corruption, arms deals, partisanship, sabotaging the war against terror, electoral malpractices among others which has not been substantiated, verified nor established against them.

Moreover, they claimed that they were neither called upon to defend themselves nor queried for any misdemeanor while in the service of the Army.

They contended that their effort to get redress through a petition they wrote to the President via the Office of Chief of Defense Staff did not yield any result neither were other petitions to the country’s Public Complaints Commission and the National Human Rights Commission.

Even though the National Industrial Court found the action of the Army illegal, the plaintiffs said that the Army refused to reinstate them.

Among the reliefs sought by the Plaintiffs are: a declaration by the Court that the punishment meted to them by way of compulsory retirement based on disciplinary grounds had no factual basis whatsoever and hence illegal and in breach of their human rights.

They therefore urged the Court to award them compensatory damages in the sum of 10 Billion Naira each or as is just and reasonable to be determined at the hearing of the application.

In its defence, the Defendant alleged that the Plaintiffs were either involved in partisan politics during the 2014/2015 elections in Ekiti and Osun States of Nigeria or implicated in the famous $2.1 billion arms deal scandal and that there were incontrovertible evidence of romance between the Plaintiffs and Politicians in gross violation of the military code of conduct.

The case is being heard by a three member panel of Justices Dupe Atoki, Keikura Bangura and Januaria Costa.