A Federal High court in Owerri, Imo State, on Wednesday ordered that a substituted service be served on the Chief Of Army Staff, Faruk Yahaya, on a case of enforcement of fundamental rights over the killing of an Owerri based businessman, Noel Chigbu, by suspected soldiers on April 30.
The presiding judge, Justice Maureen Onyetenu, ordered that the COAS be served through a newspaper publication in The PUNCH newspaper after counsel to the applicant, G. O Anyalewechi, had informed the court that the army chief refused to be served when a court bailiff travelled from Owerri to Abuja to serve him.
Anyalewechi, disclosed that the other respondents, Chief Of Defence Staff, the Governor of Imo State and the commander of the 34 artillery brigade, Owerri, had been served, duly.
But counsel to the second (COAS) and fourth respondents (Commander 34 artillery brigade Owerri), L.B Berepiki, told the court that it was not true that the COAS refused to be served.
Berepiki, explained that the army had a regimented procedure, explaining that there was no way the COAS would have ignored a court process.
He, therefore, sought for a long adjournment to enable the army to process the court documents but the presiding justice overruled him by saying that ” this is a case of enforcement of Foundamental Rights. The army has to make its processes less cumbersome.”
The jurist, while granting the motion moved by the applicant’s lawyer for substituted service on the army chief, adjourned the matter till December 2.
Counsel to the respondent also urged the court to order that an autopsy be carried out on the body of the deceased so as to enable his family to bury him.
The counsel said, “My Lord, we are requesting that you order for a coroner’s inquest be carried out on the body of the deceased to enable his family bury him. For seven months his body has been lying at the morgue of Federal Medical Centre in Owerri. His wife is heavily pregnant and his two children are toddlers.”
In response, the Justice advised the respondent’s counsel to formally present the application on the next adjourned date.
Noel was allegedly shot dead by soldiers on April 30 at the Amakaohia flyover in Owerri while driving home.
The deceased eldest brother and spokesperson for the family, Tobechi Chigbu, had told journalists that some soldiers had shot dead his brother on the day he took delivery of his new Toyota Camry car and was driving home at the close of work.
The distraught Tobechi had said that Noel was killed after dropping off his friend and was driving home.
He had said that the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations in the state was the one, who told the family that the soldiers said that they shot his brother dead because he violated their checkpoint rule.
Tobechi had said, “Noel was one of my young brothers. He would have been 39 on May 18, but unfortunately, he was shot dead on the day he took delivery of his new vehicle. His corpse was dumped at the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri by the soldiers, who killed him.”