One hundred and twenty six out of 255 soldiers who were sacked by the Nigerian Army on January 13 and 14, 2015, for alleged disobedience to standing order and failure to perform military duties, have gone before the National Industrial Court (NICy, sitting in Abuja to seek redress.
The plaintiffs who were part of the troops that fought to reclaim Bazza in Adamawa State from Boko Haram insurgents in October 2014, are insisting that their dismissal was unconstitutional, illegal, irregular and ultra-vires.
In their suit with number NICN/ABJ/92/2015 filed before the President of the NIC, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, the plaintiffs decried that the Nigerian Army terminated their appointment through oral communication.
The suit was lodged on their behalf by Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN.
The Army authorities had maintained that it was the refusal of the plaintiffs to obey their Commanding Officer, Lt-Col. A. A Egbejule, during a counter-attack by Boko Haram elements in Bazza, Adamawa State, that led to the recapture of the territory by the terrorists.
However, refuting the allegation by the Army, the plaintiffs through a statement of fact they attached in support of the suit, said they were not accorded fair hearing before they were summarily dismissed.
In the statement by a lawyer in Falana’s chamber, Deji Morakinyo, the sacked soldiers said they were denied “inviolable opportunity to be heard and make representation in defence and to state their respective cases.”
Morakinyo said the soldiers had only retreated on the order by their Commanding Officer for “tactical withdrawal” after the terrorists re-grouped and overwhelmed the soldiers with AA anti-craft guns, APCS, RPGs, GPMGs, and other sophisticated and superior weapons.
“The claimants particularly aver that due to the insurgents’ counter-attack, and the re-capture of Bazza from the personnel of the defendant (the Nigerian Army), their Commanding Officer, Lt.-Col. A.A Egbejule, in line with military tradition, ordered tactical withdrawal by the Joint Force so as to re-strategise.
“The claimants further and particularly aver that consistent with military tradition, the Joint Force had to comply with the superior order of their Commanding Officer, hence they withdrew as ordered by their Commanding Officer.”
The plaintiffs are therefore praying the court to among other things, declare their sacking on the basis of failure to perform military duties and disobedience to standing order as “unconstitutional, illegal, irregular and ultra-vires.”
They also asked that the Army should be ordered to pay them their accrued salaries and other entitlements since they were sacked in January, N1 million to each of them for breach of fundamental right to fair hearing and freedom from discrimination, likewise the sum of N5 million to cover the litigation cost.
The NIC has slated October 19 to commence hearing on the matter.