A Federal High court in Owerri, the Imo State capital, has ordered that substituted service of court summon be served on the Chief Of Army Staff, Faruk Yahaya, over the killing of an Owerri-based businessman, Noel Chigbu by suspected soldiers on April 30.
Counsel to the applicant, G. O Anyalewechi informed the court that the army chief refused to be served when a court bailiff traveled from Owerri to Abuja to meet him.
The presiding judge, Justice Maureen Onyetenu, ordered that the COAS be served through a newspaper publication in The PUNCH newspaper.
The applicant’s counsel further disclosed that the other respondents: the Chief Of Defence Staff, the Governor of Imo State and the Commander of the 34 Artillery Brigade, Owerri, had been duly served.
Meanwhile, the counsel to the second (COAS) and fourth respondents (Commander 34 artillery brigade Owerri), L.B Berepiki, refuted Anyalewechi’s claim.
He stated that it was not true that the COAS refused to be served.
Berepiki explained that the Army operates 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, “this is a case of enforcement of fundamental rights. The army has to make its processes less cumbersome.”
The judge, 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 to enable his family to bury him.
He said, “My Lord, we are requesting that you order that a coroner’s inquest be carried out on the body of the deceased to enable his family to bury him. For seven months, his body has been at the morgue of Federal Medical Centre in Owerri. His wife is heavily pregnant and his two children are toddlers.”
In response, the judge advised the respondent’s counsel to formally present the application on the next adjourned date.
The victim, 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, informed journalists that some soldiers 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 said Noel was killed after dropping off his friend and heading home.
He had said that the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations in the state 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, 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.”