……As Army refuses to obey court judgement ordering immediate reinstatement, promotion
In a case between Captain Benedict Olusoji Akanni Rtd claimant and The Nigerian Army, The Nigerian Army Council, Chief of Army Staff, Attorney General of the Federation & Minister of Justice as 1st, 2nd, 3rd 4th Defendants respectively in a case No. NICN/ABJ/125/2018 delivered May 27, 2020.
Following the unsatisfactory Army General Court Martial judgement of November 18, 1998 sentencing and conviction of Captain Benedict Olusoji Akanni who was charged to the 1st defendant’s General Court Martial on counts of stealing and conspiracy to steal the stolen metal panels and wire rolls. The 1st defendant’s General Court Martial acquitted the claimant on allegations of stealing but found him guilty of conspiracy to steal and therefore, the 2nd defendant directed the 1st defendant to take disciplinary measures on the claimant. As a result, the 1st defendant, by Annexure 1, demoted the claimant from the rank of Captain to Second Lieutenant, and furthermore, compulsorily retired him with effect from 10th April 2000.
Due to the General Army Court Martial judgement Captain Benedict Olusoji Akanni Rtd. felling dissatisfied approached the Federal Court of Appeal in Lagos Judicial Division challenging the judgement at the General Court Martial which the Court of Appeal on July 8, 2016 in its judgement set aside the conviction, demotion of the claimant, Captain Benedict Olusoji Akanni Rtd. The orders contained in Annexure 2 furthermore states that the claimant , Captain Benedict Olusoji Akanni, should be reinstated into the 1st defendant, restore his rank and also the claimant should not suffer any disadvantage in his seniority in the said rank as a result of the trial. For ease of reference, the judgment of the Court of Appeal at page 20 of Annexure 2 held thus:
Finally, this appeal succeeds; the judgment of the general Court martial on the 18th November, 1998 confirmed by the Army Council is hereby set aside. Consequently, the conviction and sentence of the Appellant is also set aside, the reduction in rank reversed and the said rank of the Appellant restored. He should not also suffer any disadvantage in his seniority in the said rank as a result of the trial(emphasis is the claimant’s)”.
The matter which was holden at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in the Abuja Judicial Division presided over by His Lordship Hon. Justice B.B Kanyip, PhD and President National Industrial Court of Nigeria, noted the Nigerian Army rather than to comply with the orders as contained in Annexure 2, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants disobeyed, ridiculed and disregarded the order of the Court of Appeal by restoring the claimant merely to the rank of Captain and immediately compulsorily retired him with effect from 10th April 2000 without any further benefit. To the claimant, it should be noted that by the order of the Court of Appeal, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants ought to reinstate the claimant back into their services as if the claimant never left, since the judgment of the General Court Martial has been wholly and completely set aside, thus not subsisting anymore. Accordingly, that it is the defendants’ flagrant disobedience of the judgment of the Court of Appeal that informed the claimant to institute this action before this Court NICN.
The Judge Hon. Justice Kanyip Ph.D held that What was not met by the Nigerian Army is reinstating the claimant Captain Akanni Rtd. to his employment, which he held in terms of relief (a) to be unlawful.
The judge also said that since only relief (a) succeeds in terms of the main reliefs, I now turn to the alternative reliefs. One of the alternative reliefs sought by the claimant was an order directing the the Nigerian Army to pay him the sum of N500 Million being general damages against the 1st defendant for loss of expectation in his chosen career, training and psychological trauma suffered as a result of the illegal action of the Army. I held in terms of relief (a) that the defendants were in disobedience of the Court of Appeal decision of 8th July 2016 by not restoring the claimant to his employment. I also held that the defendants cannot pick and choose which part of a court’s judgment to obey.
The judge held that there is no gainsaying that the refusal of especially the Army to restore the claimant to his employment shattered the claimant’s expectations.
Adding that the disobedience of the Army to the Court of Appeal decision, which disobedience is the failure of the defendants to restore the claimant to his employment as an Officer of the 1st defendant must accordingly be recompensed especially in terms of the failed expectations of the claimant in that regard.
“So, for acting arbitrarily, for disobeying the Court of Appeal, and for refusing to restore the claimant to his employment, I assess the general damages of the claimant for lost expectations at N75 Million, which I hereby award.
On the whole, and for the avoidance of doubt, the claimant’s case succeeds in part, and only in terms of the following declaration and orders:
It is hereby declared that the compulsory retirement of the claimant by the 1st defendant through letter (ref AHQ MS/300/226) dated 22nd day of June, 2017 is illegal, null and void.
It is hereby ordered that the 1st defendant shall pay to the claimant the sum of N75 Million only being general damages for loss of expectation in the claimant’s chosen career, training and psychological trauma suffered by the claimant as a result of the arbitrary and illegal action of the Army, the said N75 Million shall be paid within 30 days of this judgment” which is from May 27, 2020 counting.
The court held that the claimant suffered a loss and what he claims is general damages. Citing Eneh v. Ozor & anor  LPELR-40830(SC) held that unlike special damages, which must be specifically pleaded and proved strictly, the quantum of general damages need not be pleaded or proved; and that the manner in which general damages is quantified is by relying on what a reasonable man’s judgment would be in the circumstance. Elf Petroleum v. Umah & ors  LPELR-43600(SC) on its part held that general damages is at the discretion of the Court. The disobedience of the defendants to the Court of Appeal decision, which disobedience is the failure of the defendants to restore the claimant to his employment as an Officer of the 1st defendant must accordingly be recompensed especially in terms of the failed expectations of the claimant in that regard. But is the value of this loss of expectation the N500 Million the claimant is praying for? The claimant also talked of psychological trauma he suffered. This is to be implied in terms of the loss of expectation. “I note that the claimant became Captain in 1997. I note that the Court of Appeal decision was delivered on 8th July 2016. I note that Annexure 3, which confirmed the compulsory retirement of the claimant effective 10th April 2000 is dated 22nd June 2017. All of these signify that had the defendants complied with the Court of Appeal decision of 8th July 2016, the claimant would have been in the employment of especially the 1st defendant as of 22nd June 2017 when Annexure 3 was written. So, for acting arbitrarily, for disobeying the Court of Appeal, and for refusing to restore the claimant to his employment, I assess the general damages of the claimant for lost expectations at N75 Million, which I hereby award.” the National Industrial court learned judge verdict.