Dismissed Army Officers Drag Nigerian Govt to ECOWAS Court
More than a year after they were dismissed, 38 top officers of the Nigerian Army have headed to the community court of justice of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.
The officers accused the federal government of violating their fundamental rights to fair hearing.
They said their dismissal was perpetrated by the Minster of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin; and the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai acting as agents of the federal government.
The Nigerian Army had in June 2016 dismissed the officers by compulsory retirement over allegations of professional misconduct during the 2015 general election and involvement in arms procurement fraud.
The officers had petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
One of the affected officers, Ojebo Baba-Ochankpa, died while waiting for justice, in January 2017.
In the fresh suit filed at the ECOWAS court, the aggrieved soldiers said the federal government acting through the top defence officers violated their human rights.
“When the Army council purported to approve the punishment meted out against the Army 38, the Army council had no factual legal or constitutional basis to act as a panel of inquiry, court martial and confirming authority all rolled into one,” the suit reads.
“The power of the Army Council with regard to discipline of per law, the constitution and the statutes is limited to the powers to confirm and/or affirm and/or review a disciplinary measure made by a competent judicial panel in this case a competent court martial.
“Federal Republic of Nigeria acting by and through the Minister for Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff and the Nigerian Army violated the plaintiffs’ right to be heard before a panel of inquiry previously cited, before a court martial and deny the right to review of their cases in accordance with defendant’s own regulation as provided in paragraph 09.02 (e) of the Harmonised terms and conditions of service for officers, 2012.
“Specifically, the within named agents of defendant inserted themselves into the review process and ensured that the plaintiffs’ right to redress was completely stultified by refusing to pass the application for review to the President and Commander-in-Chief.”
The retired officers sought, among other reliefs, that the court declares the punishment meted out to them illegal, violation of their human rights and a failure of due process.
They also asked the court to award compensatory damages of N10 billion to each of them.