ECOWAS Court to deliver judgment 10th July, 2020 on a suit filed by Ruth Ochankpa and 34 retired army officers against the Federal republic of Nigeria

Judgment will be delivered on Friday, 10th July, 2020 by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in a suit filed by the widow of a retired officer of the Nigerian Army, Ruth Ochankpa and 34 others challenging as unlawful, the retirement of the late husband and the others by the Army four years ago.

The first plaintiff, Mrs. Ochankpa, the widow and next of kin to the late Lt. Col O.A Baba-Ochankpa and the 34 others who were retired from the Army on 9th June 2016 filed the suit against the Federal Republic of Nigeria challenging their compulsory retirement.

At the last hearing of the matter on 19th   March,2020 a panel of three justices of the Court led by Honorable Justice Dupe Atoki ordered after closing the oral hearing, that all written addresses should be submitted to the Court on or before 1st May, 2020 to allow the Court study it before the Judgment.

Led in evidence by their Counsel, Mr. Abdul Mohammed, two of the plaintiffs who gave evidence as the first and second witnesses, Col. Mohammed Awal Suleiman (Rtd), who was Defence Attache in Nigeria’s Embassy in Chad and Lt. Col Abdulfatai Mohammed (Rtd), who was serving in the war against Boko Haram in the country’s north east, narrated how they were served their letters of retirement.

They averred that their letters of compulsory retirement contained mere and unsubstantiated allegations relating to corruption, arms deals, Partisanship, sabotaging the war against terror, electoral malpractices among others that were never verified nor established against them.

More so, they were not called upon to defend themselves, neither did not have a single query for misdemeanor in their files since their employment.

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 did their petitions to the Public Complaints Commission and National Human Rights Commission.

They also claimed that an order of the National Industrial Court for their reinstatement having found the action of the Army illegal, was ignored.

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; the award to the Plaintiffs of 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 stated 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. The defendant also said the government has incontrovertible evidence that the plaintiffs romanced with Politicians in gross violation of the code of conduct of the military.

Other members of the panel are Justice Keikura Bangura and Justice Januaria Costa.