Odi Massacre: Crisis Over FG’s N15bn Payment

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Mr Noble Pepple (left), executive director, RSSDA exchanging a document with Prof Adeboyi Daramola, VC, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State between the RSSDA and the institute in Port Harcourt, recently. Photo: Ibioye Diama
Mr Noble Pepple (left), executive director, RSSDA exchanging a document with Prof Adeboyi Daramola, VC, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State between the RSSDA and the institute in Port Harcourt, recently. Photo: Ibioye Diama

The sum of N15 billion, being part payment of N37.618 billion, intended as compensation to Odi community by the Federal Government for the infamous 1999 invasion by  soldiers has pitched  members of the community against one other.
Youths from the community last Saturday attacked the deputy traditional head of the community, Chief Ebitimi Karuiru, and other leaders over alleged discrepancies in the sharing of the N15 billion compensation money paid so far.
The money was paid last month by the Federal Government in compliance with a 2013 court ruling, which had ordered that N37.6 billion be paid as compensation for the invasion and destruction of the community by the military under the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo.
The controversy trailing the payment of the initial N15 billion was worsened by the fact that 40 per cent of the sum was reportedly deducted from the source by the consortium of lawyers engaged by the community.
The youths, according to the report, had descended on the homes of some prominent elders of the community over the disappearance of over N600 million from the total sum remaining.
Chief Karouiru was attacked at his Odi residence with machetes and his car set ablaze, as the rampaging youths went naked in the town, calling for the heads of those identified as the beneficiaries of the N600 million.
An eyewitness reported that the youths swarmed to the community burial site to invoke curses on those accused of diverting the funds meant for the affected families of the community.
A squadron of armed mobile policemen has since been deployed to Odi to maintain law and order.
A community source identified the signatories to the account to consist of the chief of the Odi Community, Chief Sine Akpere, Professor Kobina Imananagha, Commander Koku Imananagha (rtd) and Koloigidi Anis.
The state government, through the office of the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah, held a meeting with the community leaders and demanded for the list of the illegal beneficiaries of the missing money.
At the meeting convened by the state government, it was agreed that representatives of the women and the youths should be included for wider representation.
“It was also agreed that the signatories made up of category A, Chief Akpere and Prof.Imananagha and Category B, Commander Imananagha and Amiso should be changed and the N9billion be domiciled in a special account pending the resolution of the issues.”
A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had last year ordered the Federal Government to pay N37.6 billion compensation to the people of Odi community over the military invasion during the Obasanjo administration.
The presiding judge in the N100 billion suit filed by the community, Justice Lambi Akanbi, had also ordered that the compensation should be paid within three weeks.
In the suit, they had prayed the court to award them the amount as damages for the destruction of lives and property in Odi. The community had also asked for N17.618billion as general damages and N20billion for special damages. They in addition had demanded public apology and the re-building of Odi community by the FG.
The judge, however, granted two of their prayers and rejected the other two. He accused the Federal Government of being economical with the truth by pleading in their counter affidavits that no inhabitant of the community was killed apart from some armed militant youths who engaged the military in gun battle; and that no property was destroyed by the soldiers.