Court orders Nigeria to pay N88bn to 1967 civil war victims

Nigerians are remembering thousands killed in the Biafra war
FILE PHOTO: Biafra campaigners during a peaceful protest in Nigeria

A court on Monday ordered Nigeria to pay 88 billion naira ($288 million) in damages to victims of the 1967 civil war for failure to fully de-mine and clear the land of other weaponry after the end of hostilities.

The ruling calls on the government to pay 50 billion naira directly to war victims in 11 states and put 38 billion naira toward de-mining and the construction of schools, courts, churches and mosques in the affected areas.

A judge for the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice ruled that there remain “large quantities” of live bombs deprived communities of farmland since the civil war ended in 1970.

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Sovereign states do not have to respect the court’s rulings and there is no framework for making them binding. The office of President Muhammadu Buhari did not immediately comment on the ruling.

A million people died in the 1967-70 civil war over the short-lived Republic of Biafra.

Biafra was an unrecognized country in West Africa from 1967 to 1970, made up of the states in the Eastern Region of Nigeria.

Its attempt to leave Nigeria resulted in the 1967 Civil War.

The country took its name from the Bight of Biafra, the stretch of water to its south at the east end of the Gulf of Guinea.

Its inhabitants were mostly Igbo, who led the secession due to economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria.

Other ethnic groups that were present were the Efik, Ibibio, Annang, Ejagham, Eket, Ibeno and the Ijaw among others.

The secession of the Biafran region was caused by the pogrom that was committed against the Igbo and other Biafrans living in the north in revenge of what the northerners termed the assassination of northern leaders by a group of young soldiers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, an Igbo, in Nigeria’s first military coup early on 15 January 1966 which was followed by another coup that resulted in the death of the new head of state Major Gen Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, also an Igbo, the same year.

The state of Biafra was formally recognised by Gabon, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Zambia.

Other nations, which did not give official recognition but provided support and assistance to Biafra, included Israel, France, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Rhodesia, South Africa and the Vatican City.