In less than two months, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has become the butt of court orders.
This time, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai Friday, August 7 got a 20-day court order to tender an apology letter to a royal father in Akwa Ibom State, over the gross infringement of his fundamental rights by officers of the Nigerian Army.
Recall that a Federal High Court in Abuja had May 16 ordered Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, to produce for prosecution, the army officers who allegedly facilitated the escape of Hamisu Bala, a suspected kidnap kingpin better known as Wadume.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had July 22 ordered the Nigerian Army to grant victimised Lance Corporal Martins access to his wife, lawyer and relatives.
An Akwa Ibom High Court in Itu gave Lt. Gen. Buratai the order for the offence committed against Etebom Ubong Essien Edet Okokon, Clan Head of Oku Iboku, in Akwa Ibom State by some soldiers.
The court, presided over by Justice Ntong Ntong, also ordered the indicted soldiers, Captain Ibrahim and Brigadier T.A. Lagbaja of 2 Brigade Headquarters of the Nigerian Army, Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo, to jointly pay N1 million to the monarch for the aggravated breach of the fundamental rights from August 6 to 13, 2019.
In a one-hour judgment, Justice Ntong held that the two soldiers humiliated and tortured the Clan Head in the course of interviewing him over allegation that he was involved in the missing of four boats in his domain.
The Court described Akwa Ibom State Government as responsible and responsive, stressing that although the Army officers were engaged in the investigation of the missing boats, it is not the government that asked them to maltreat the traditional ruler.
The judge noted that the two indicted Army officers were overzealous in the course of carrying out their lawful duties.
Justice Ntong said that the soldiers ought to have shown respect and dignity to the person of the applicant, not because he is a traditional ruler, but because he is a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is entitled to the respect of his fundamental rights as enshrined in Chapter 1V of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
He said even if the monarch was suspected to have been involved in the alleged missing of the four boats, the Nigerian Army and its officers, who were asked to investigate the matter, ought to have treated Etebom Okokon with some modicum of respect.
The Court ruled that the days when military men, treated their civilian counterparts with impunity and disdain, were gone and gone forever in Nigeria.
Justice Ntong held that the Army Officers, Captain Ibrahim and Brigadier T.A. Lagbaja were personally liable for the infringement of the rights of the Clan Head.
He explained that the court was not shielding and cannot shield Etebom Ubong Okokon from investigation of any criminal allegation, but that the investigating body should do so within the purview and ambit of the Law.
Ntong declared that the arrest, detention, harassment, humiliation and torture of the royal father from 6th to 13th of August last years, was unlawful, unconstitutional and a gross breach of his rights, which the soldiers must pay for it.
The court held that the Chief of Army Staff should apologise to the Clan Head of Oku Iboku within twenty days, while the indicted officers should pay N1 million as compensation for the breach of the rights of the royal father.
Reported by Harrison Essien