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ZAKI BIAM INVASION: VICTIMS YET TO BE PAID 15 YEARS AFTER COURT ORDERED FG TO PAY COMPENSATION

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Zaki Biam…The attack on Zaki Biam could best be described as an ethnic cleansing considering the magnitude of the carnage that trailed the attack and the global outrage that greeted the Army operation

…Survivors lament delay, ask FG to comply

A VISIT to Zaki Biam, also known as the ‘yam headquarters’ or the ‘food basket of Benue State’, was quite revealing.

Though bustling with activities, the relics of the 2001 infamous invasion by the military that left many dead and villages in ruins, still dot the landscape.

Located in the Sankera axis of Benue State, Zaki Biam and several other communities on that path, including Gbeji, Vaase, Iorja, Tse Adoor, Kyado, Anyiin and Ugba were invaded by troops and reduced to mere rubble following reports of the murder of no fewer than 19 soldiers who were sent to maintain the peace over a lingering crisis involving communities there.

The military attack reportedly resulted in massive destruction of lives and property, which ultimately forced the victims to seek reparation through litigation spearheaded by the late leader of the Benue Development Movement, Dr. Alexander Gaadi, who dragged the Federal Government to court, demanding N200 billion for the victims.

Six years later, and specifically in 2007, what was seen as respite for the victims, came when Justice Lewis Alagoa of the Federal High Court Enugu entered a N41.8 billion judgement against the Federal Government which was eventually pruned to N8 billion in a compromise agreement.

Regrettably, 21 years after the massacre and 15 years after the judgement that was entered in favour of the victims, they are yet to reap from the celebrated verdict of the court.

While many of the survivors of the invasion are dead, many others are actively expecting when they will receive their cheques from government, which appears not to be bothered about their plight and is apparently not doing anything in that regard.

Some survivors of the massacre, who lamented their fate when Arewa Voice visited Zaki Biam, said that it was unbelievable that they were yet to be compensated more than two decades after a valid and subsisting court order.

They wondered why the Federal Government had resorted to dilly- dallying over the matter and buying time in court through unjustifiable court processes all in a bid to frustrate efforts to give effect to the verdict, thereby further worsening their condition.

Elder John Tsafa, the Orya (Village Head) of Tse-Amachigh, Ugbaam Council Ward in Sankera, lamented that his subjects are still suffering the effect of the invasion and had been traumatised by the non-payment of the approved compensation to them by the Federal Government.

Tsafa said: “The money has not been given to us and my subjects are suffering as a result. Our condition is very critical now. Although many people have rebuilt their houses, some have not been able to settle down since that time because their livelihoods were completely destroyed.

“If that compensation is given to us, it will do us a great deal of good. We will be able to pick up our lives again and live normal lives because the truth is that the invasion adversely affected even the survivors, many of who have died untimely deaths because of the pains and trauma they had to live with.”

Also, Dooga Nyiashima, the second Orya of Tse-Amachigh, whose house and belongings were also destroyed, disclosed that 21 years after, he had not been able to overcome the trauma and found his feet. “I have been doing my best but I lost much during the invasion and I have no hope again unless I get compensated to add speed to my life again,” he said.

Recounting his ordeal, Ugodo Ukpelakpela from Tse-hiive said, his two brothers whose houses were burnt during the invasion, were unable to rebuild them until they died and never got compensated.

“It is heartbreaking and we appeal to the Federal Government to pay the compensation so that the victims who are still alive can get the support they need to pick up their lives again while those who died in the course of waiting for the payment can rest peacefully,” he said.

Another resident and survivor, Torhee Taawen who looked dejected and helpless, said: “We have not been compensated and we are suffering but there’s nothing we can do about it. My father’s house was destroyed by the Army in 2001. He could not rebuild it until he died and we built his tomb in the ruins of a wing of the house because it was a big house that accommodated our large family.”

Reacting, the lawmaker representing the Logo/Ukum/Katsina-Ala Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Dr. Richard Gbande urged the Federal Government to be guided by the principles of rule of law and obey the orders of the court by paying compensation to victims of the invasion.

“The Zaki Biam invasion was a sad one and we all expect that government will immediately comply with the court ruling by paying the compensation to alleviate the suffering of the survivors/victims who are my constituents so that they can pick themselves up and push the incident behind them. The time to act is now; it is long overdue and long awaited,” Dr. Gbande said.

Speaking on the issue, the lawyer who led in the suit to secure reparation for the victims/survivors, Mr. Ocha Ulegede narrated the intrigues that trailed the quest for justice for the victims who dragged the matter to court and expressed optimism that solace would soon come the way of the people.

Mr. Ulegede explained that on July 5, 2007 he secured a judgment of N41.8 billion at the Federal High Court Enugu and by October 22, 2007 he garnished the Federal Government’s account for that judgement.

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PETER OBI RAISES ALARM OVER ARREST OF ‘OBIDIENTS’ BY SECURITY AGENTS

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Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi has claimed that security agents are ‘silently arresting’ his Obidients supporters.

Obi made this allegation in a series of tweets via his verified Twitter handle on Tuesday.

His words, “Recent reports of OBIdients being silently arrested by some security agents is extremely disturbing and condemnable. We must ensure that everyone is given a level playing field in the forthcoming elections, and that no eligible Nigerian, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation is disenfranchised, more so through violence and intimidation.

“Elections are not deemed free and fair when a certain group employs the tool of intimidation to ensure that the opposition is silenced, both at the campaigns and at the polls.

“Peaceful assembly and unfettered electioneering campaigns are constitutionally guaranteed. Both and other ordered liberties cannot be breached wilfully by security agents,” he said.

Obi, however, called on the Federal and State agencies to remind their operatives on the need to respect civil liberties.

Recall that supporters of Obi had also raised the alarm over alleged intimidation by the officials of security agencies at the Lagos4ObiDatti during the weekend (Saturday).

A member of Peter Obi Central Coordinators, F S Yusuf, whow made the claim in a tweet via his Twitter handle, stated that Peter Obi’s supporters are being harassed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport 1.

His tweet reads, “Reports reaching me Joseph Onuorah @BigJoeOfLagos an #Obidient and a part of the Lagos ObiDatti Rally is being held by the DSS/Immigration at the MMA1 upon his arrival from France. He was flagged on the “Stop List”. We call on the authorities to respect his rights……”

A coalition of support groups, Lagos4ObiDatti, backing Peter Obi in 2023, had earlier announced plans to hold its Lagos 4-million-man march for ObiDatti.

Addressing newsmen in Lagos, the Lagos4ObiDatti Central Organizing Committee said the march will take place across three major locations on October 1, 2022.

The group, however, denounced any attempt to link the Lagos Obidient Rally to the 2020 #EndSars Movement.

Speaking on the Lagos4ObiDatti rally, chairman of the Publicity and Media Committee, Christopher Ademuyiwa, had stated that the march would hold simultaneously in three different locations in the Lagos metropolis, namely Admiralty gate Lekki Phase 1; Archbishop Vining Memorial Church, GRA, Ikeja; and at FHA field on 23 road Festac.

Ademuyiwa said: “This march is more like a carnival, and the Obidients in Lagos are gearing up in large numbers to show their support for the Peter Obi and Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed presidential ticket.

“Also, plans have been made to have buses transport Obidients to and from their locations, and the bus pickup points will be released on social media.

“Our march is legal and constitutional, it is within the electoral time frame and calendar released by INEC and all security agencies have been duly and formally informed using the appropriate means.

“The police, NSCDC, road safety and DSS will be on ground to provide security as we march,” Ademuyiwa had said.

Meanwhile, Peter Obi Grassroots Mobilization group had, ahead of the rally, stated that, as advised by our legal team, all the support groups for Peter Obi will comply with the Court Order and directives contained therein as it relates to Lekki Toll Gate.

“We will not deviate from the planned routes as judiciously Ordered. We urge every OBIDIENTS to comply,” the group stated in a post via its Twitter handle on Saturday.

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BUHARI’S INDEPENDENCE BROADCAST EMBARRASSING, SAY NIGERIANS

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Nigeria Coat of Arm

Nigerians, from different quarters, have described President Muhammadu Buhari’s national broadcast on the occasion of the 62nd independence anniversary, as a national embarrassment.

It could be recalled that during this year’s independence national broadcast, Buhari was quoted as saying: “The annals of Nigerian’s history was no longer a household secret as I failed and later succeeded in my attempts to become the country’s president.

“I am honoured to say my election as a democratic president in 2015 was made positive by the majority of Nigerians.

“When you elected me, I acknowledged that the tasks before me were daunting, but surmountable, because of growing national consensus that our chosen path to national development was democracy.”

Many Nigerians have, therefore, ciriticised the president as the democracy he referred to in his speech has been bastardised by the present All Progressives Congress (APC) led government by failing to meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.

Commenting on reactions to Buhari’s independence broadcast, a Dutse, Jigawa State-based social critic, Mahmud Tahir, said that the blame for the socio-political and economic woes of the country should not be borne by the president alone.

He added that his cabals, the state governors, and members of the National Assembly, among others, must share in the leadership failure of the country.

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FG WARNS AGAINST FAKE NIGERIA AIR RECRUITMENT WEBSITE

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The Management of Nigeria Air Limited on Tuesday described the website and links used for recruitment advertisements and announcements by unscrupulous members of the public claiming to be agents or staff of Nigeria Air as ‘fake.’

In a statement, the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to the Minister of Aviation, James Odaudu, advised Nigerians to disregard such notifications or invitations as nothing of such exercise is currently ongoing.

He, however, advised those who applied for the earlier officially advertised positions to get authenticated information from the official website: www.nigeriaair.world.

The statement read,” The attention of the Management of Nigeria Air Limited has been drawn to some recruitment advertisements and announcements by certain unscrupulous elements claiming to be agents or staff of the upcoming airline.

“The so-called agents have created a host of fake websites and links supposedly for the submission of applications by unsuspecting members of the public.

“We wish to inform the general public, especially those who have applied for the earlier officially advertised positions, that no recruitment interviews or tests have been scheduled. All such announcements or invitations for such should be disregarded as they are the handiwork of fraudsters and scammers.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the official website is www.nigeriaair.world, and only those pre-qualified as meeting the B737 requirements will be contacted by the management of Nigeria Air Limited individually, and certainly not by public announcements.

“All those concerned are therefore advised to ignore such announcements or invitations, as responding to, or dealing with them in any way, will be at their own risk.

“Management appreciates the unprecedented level of interest shown by Nigerians in the airline which has resulted in the receipt of over 20,000 applications for positions in the organisation so far and wishes to state that the recruitment process for other positions will begin in due course.”

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