A Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt Tuesday ordered the Federal Government to pay N37.6b compensation to the people of Odi community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State over the invasion of their community by armed soldiers during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Justice Lambi Akanbi of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, who gave the order while delivering judgment in a N100 billion suit filed by the people of Odi community against the Federal Government also ordered that the compensation should be paid within three weeks. They prayed the court to award them the amount as damages for the destruction of lives and property in Odi.
The judge however awarded a total sum of N37.618 billion compensation in favour of the community for the wanton destruction of the place by Nigeria soldiers. The community asked for N17.618billion as general damages and N20billion for special damages. They also demanded public apology and the re-building of Odi community by the FG. The Judge however granted two of their prayers and rejected the other two. Delivering the judgement; which lasted for two hours, Akanbi held that the Federal Government was economical with the truth by pleading in their counter affidavits that no inhabitant of the community was killed apart from some armed militant youths who engaged the military in gun battle; and that no property was destroyed by the soldiers.
Relying on various statements by the government, National Assembly, and inscriptions left on the soils of Odi by the Soldiers, as well as video clips on the invasion which was watched in the open court at the January 17th, 2013 session, the judge described their claims and counter affidavits ‘as worthless’. Said he: “The destruction of Odi was comprehensive and complete; no aspect of the community was spared by what I saw in the pictures showed here. The respondents violated the fundamental Human Rights of the People of Odi, by the massacre. The people are entitled to fundamental rights to life, dignity and fair play, the destruction of Odi was not as a result of gun battle but clear bombardment, the destruction was malicious.
judge also quoted President Goodluck Jonathan as saying in a media chat on the National Television Authority (NTA), on November 18, 2010 that “only innocent people, including women, children and the very weak that could not run escape were killed in Odi”. According to him, the then Senate President, late Chuka Okadigbo was also quoted to have said, the facts speaks for themselves, no need to speak again, as there are nobody to speak.” He equally reviewed the exhibit tendered quoting the soldiers who carried out the destruction as saying “we go kill all the Ijaw people with our guns, come to Odi and learn a lesson, Ijaw face, Monkey face, Government has given us power to kill, Odi is for Soldiers not for Ijaws, Bayelsa will remain sorrowful for ever.” among others. The 1st and 2nd respondents (FG and Attorney General of the Federation) were represented by Mrs. Nkoli Awa Esq. The 2nd and 3rd respondents (Minister of Defence and Chief of Defence staff), did not make any formal appearance throughout the proceedings.