22 May 2019

Nigeria: Army Closes Case in Suit Challenging Senior Officer's Compulsory Retirement

The Nigerian Army has closed its case after calling one witness to challenge the suit instituted by one of the 38 senior officers it compulsorily retired in 2016.

The claimant, Colonel Mohammed Auwal Suleiman (rtd), a former Defence Attaché in the Chad Republic, had approached the National Industrial Court in Abuja to challenge the retirement.

Suleiman in his evidence in chief on June 13, 2018 told the court that the army violated its own rules and laws when it compulsorily retired some of its senior officers in 2016.

When he concluded his case on June 13, 2018, the matter was adjourned to October 8 for the army to open its defence.

However, the matter was further adjourned to October 23 when the army could not present its sole witness, one Major Ali Abba Goni of the Army Headquarters Garrison Legal Services, in court.

When proceedings resumed on October 23, Major Goni was said to have proceeded on a course, thus his absence.

The court then awarded the cost of N20,000 against the army and further adjourn the matter to December 3.

Army's counsel would then informed the court on December 3 that Goni was again not available and that the army was considering the option of substituting the witness.

Although Col. Suleiman's counsel prayed that the army be foreclosed, the court further adjourned the matter to February 26 for definite hearing.

On February 26, following another application for adjournment by the army, the case was adjourned to April 15 with the cost of N10,000 awarded against the defendants.

However, the case was further adjourned to May 20 as the court was on Easter vacation on April 15 scheduled for it.

At the resumed hearing on Monday, the army applied to the court to substitute Major Goni with one Captain David Ighodaro as the sole witness for the army.

The application, which was not objected to by the claimant, was granted.

The witness, Captain Ighodaro, also of the Army Headquarters Garrison Legal Services, urged the court to admit his witness statement on oath as his evidence before the court.

In the statement on oath, Ighodaro stated that the "claimant was retired from the Nigerian Army on disciplinary grounds; that is, to instill the highest level of discipline and professionalism in the Nigerian Army, especially in these times of insecurity."

However, under cross-examination, he said he was not aware of any offence, charge, investigation or court martial against the claimant before he was compulsorily retired.

After his evidence, counsel to the army, Moses Ukachukwu, informed the court that he had concluded the defence's case and applied for a date for adoption of final written addresses.

The trial judge, Justice Sanusi Kado, thereafter adjourned the matter to September 26 for adoption of final written addresses.

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