Court awards widow N300m for husband murdered by Nigerian soldier

Shadowed lady used to illustrate the story.

The widow’s husband was killed by a Nigerian soldier.

Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Wednesday awarded N300 million as damages to Adiza Orjieh, whose husband was brutally shot by an army officer, sending the widow into a spasm of weeping inside the court room.

In October 2009, an army officer identified as Private Aminu Audu shot and killed Friday Orjieh, 36, after the latter was accused of short changing a customer at his bureau de change.

Mrs. Orjieh’s efforts to seek justice from the appropriate authorities yielded no results as the police and army dropped their investigations months after the incident.

While delivering his judgment on Wednesday, Mr. Idris said that the army had neither shown remorse nor condoled with the widow since the incident.

Prior to the ruling, counsels representing the Nigeria Army had attempted to file their counter affidavit, incurring the anger of the judge.

“You had six weeks to file your papers and you did not. Today is for judgment,” Mr. Idris, said, with a tone of finality.

Also, efforts by the Lagos State government to file a motion to “arrest the judgment” were turned down by the judge, who insisted that “justice cannot be arrested.”

Mr. Idris noted that Lagos needs not bother as he struck her out, in addition to the Attorney Generals of the state and the Federation, from the list of parties joined as defendants.

The shooting

Since the incident three years ago, the army had continued to shield the officers involved in the incident.

Witnesses in the incident said that a lady, identified as Elizabeth Olubunmi, had walked into Mr. Orjieh’s shop accompanied by two armed soldiers on that fateful day.

According to witnesses, Ms. Olubunmi, who had earlier come to change some foreign currency at the area, claimed that she was short-changed – a notorious practice among some Bureau De Change operators.

To recover her full money, Ms. Olubunmi recruited the services of Private Audu and Corporal Yahaya Mohammed, both attached to Op (Operation) MESA, a joint military security patrol team in Lagos.

“Private Audu angrily asked the lady if my husband was the person who earlier short-changed her and she said no.

“My husband then invited the lady to look around the office and identify the person, but after looking at everyone present, she said the person was not there,” Mrs. Orjieh had said in her testimony before the court.

“My husband explained that if she could not identify the person, then it would be extremely difficult for her problem to be addressed.

“So, after sometime, my husband turned to attend to some other customers. This angered Private Audu who instructed him not to move an inch,” she added.

According to Mrs. Orjieh, Private Audu instructed the deceased to pay the lady whatever she claimed she was owed and then obtain a refund from the unknown operator whenever he was identified.

“My husband declined to do this, as it would be impossible for him to get a refund of his money without knowing the identity of the operator and hearing his own side of the events.”

Mr. Orjieh’s refusal to obey the order of the soldier allegedly infuriated him.

“He (Private Audu) grabbed my husband by his trousers and began to shake him violently. In the process, my husband’s mobile telephone and some money fell from his pocket.”

As Mr. Orjieh bent down to recover his items, the angry soldier put his gun to his jaw and pulled the trigger.

Brain tissues and blood spattered on the floor as onlookers took to their heels.

The deceased’s corpse was deposited at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital afterwards.

A copy of the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death seen by PREMIUM TIMES placed the time of death at 4.15 p.m.; a death resulting from a severe craniocerebral injury – a medical term for a penetrative injury to the skull.

The police stated that preliminary investigations were continually frustrated by the soldiers who refused to hand over their men for questioning.

PREMIUM TIMES enquiries at the Nigerian Army 82 Division in Victoria Island met a muted response as Kayode Ogunsanya, the army spokesperson, said that he was unaware of the incident.

Mr. Orjieh was survived by his wife and two children.

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