Some soldiers, numbering 126, who were sacked following the battle to recapture Bazza in Adamawa State from Boko Haram in October 2014, have sued the Nigerian Army for alleged wrongful dismissal.
The 126 plaintiffs were among 255 soldiers sacked on January 13 and 14, 2015 by the Nigerian Army for alleged “disobedience to standing order and failure to perform military duties”.
The soldiers, who said they were sacked through oral communication on January 13 and 14, 2015, filed their suit with number NICN/ABJ/92/2015, before the National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja.
The case is before the President of the NIC, Justice Babatunde Adejumo.
Only 126 out of the 255 sacked soldiers, on whose behalf the law firm of human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had petitioned the Army, were named in the suit as plaintiffs.
Many of the 126 soldiers were enlisted in the Army in 1979 while others joined the army between then and 2013.
The plaintiffs comprise four Warrant Officers and others in the ranks of Sergeants, Corporal, Lance Corporal, and Private.
Some of the plaintiffs are Warrant Officers Akanny Welcome, Davou Nta, Ibrahim Usman and Adediran Ogunmuyiwa.
The soldiers were part of the joint force, code-named; ‘OP Zaman Lafia’ pooled together from different Divisions and Battalions of the Nigerian Army to combat Boko Haram in the North-East.
According to the plaintiffs, their dismissal was communicated to them orally at their station by Lt-Col. M.J. Gambo on January 13, 2015 and by the Garrison Commander, Brig. Gen. B.O Akinroluoyo, the following day.
The Army claimed that the plaintiffs failed to obey their Commanding Officer, Lt-Col. A. A Egbejule, during a counter-attack by Boko Haram in Bazza, a development which allegedly led to the recapture of the territory by the terrorists.
But a lawyer in Falana’s law firm, Deji Morakinyo, argued in the statement of facts accompanying the suit that the soldiers 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 regrouped and overwhelmed the soldiers with “AA anti-aircraft guns, APCS, RPGs, GPMGs, and other sophisticated and superior weapons”.
He added, “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.”
They therefore want the court to, among other prayers, 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 want the court to order the Army to pay them their accrued salaries and other entitlements since they were sacked in January, N1m to each of them for breach of fundamental right to fair hearing and freedom from discrimination as well as N5m as the cost for prosecuting the suit.
But the Army, through its notice of preliminary objection filed by its lawyer, Commander A.A Abu, insisted that the plaintiffs were duly sacked and thus asked the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction.