Tiv ask President not to pay Zaki Biam N8b judgment sum to Suswam
Says governor not a party to the case
THIRTEEN Tiv people, who successfully initiated a legal action against the Federal Government over the dastardly killing of their people in Zaki Biam and environs, Wednesday prayed President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan not to pay the N8 billion judgment sum to the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam.
Briefing reporters in Abuja yesterday, counsel to the litigants, Mr. Sebastine Hon (SAN), said the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), told him that the President had directed that the money be paid to Suswam.
Hon said that “the President’s directive is wrong morally and in law because the Benue State government was not a party to the case that resulted in the award of N41.8 billion to the plaintiffs.”
The Federal High Court, Enugu Division, had awarded to the litigants, N41.8 billion as compensation for the massacre of people in Zaki Biam and environs resulting from military invasion of the communities.
Following series of negotiations between the litigants and the Federal Government, the N41.8 billion was negotiated downward to N8 billion which government agreed to pay to the people.
Hon described the directive by the President as shocking and embarrassing and said that the Attorney-General of the Federation as the nation’s number one chief law officer should have advised the President that a person who was not a party in a suit could not be given the proceeds of a judgment.
He said: “We, therefore, request, with due respect to your exalted office that this directive be reversed immediately to avoid the Federal Government paying the money twice.”
The lawyers also accused the President of discriminating against the Tiv when he chose to pay N15 billion to kinsmen in Odi even though the judgment awarded in favour of the Odi people was N37 billion while the court awarded N41.8 billion in favour of the Tiv people for which the President agreed to pay to the people only N8 billion.
Hon said:” We are either aggrieved on the manner your government handled the Odi massacre affair, vis-a-vis the Zaki Biam massacre affair, for the following reasons:
• “The Odi massacre affair was later in time than that of Zaki Biam but was resolved out of court earlier than that of the latter.
• “The Odi compromise sum of N15 billion was even higher in size than the Zaki Biam compromise sum of N8 billion even though Odi is just one community as opposed to the massacre in Benue State which cuts across the four local councils of Ukum, Logo, Katsina-Ala and Kwande.
• “The fact that a higher amount of N41.8 billion was awarded in favour our clients, as opposed to the N37 billion awarded in favour of Odi.”
Hon also reminded the President that the appeal filed at the Court of Appeal by the Federal Government in respect of the judgment was still pending and that the out-of-court settlement had not yet been signed by the parties for the court to adopt as its judgment.