Pleads with Presidents Bola Tinubu and Faure Gnassingbe to ask Togo Defence Ministry to release CFA 250 million awarded to them as damages by a Togolese Tribunal
Two businessmen who were unlawfully shot and wounded by the Togolese Navy 23 years ago have pleaded with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu(in his position as ECOWAS President), and President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo to use their offices and prevail on Togolese Defence Authorities to pay the CFA 250 million damages awarded to them by the tribunal of inquiry set up by the Togolese government.
On September 8, 2000, a Nigerian, Mr Taju Shoaga, a native of Abeokuta, Ogun State of Nigeria, accompanied by his friend and business partner, Mr Segun Koulonou Leopard had visited Port Autonorme Lome to purchase vehicles which they usually bring back to Nigeria to sell. It wasn’t their first trip as they were well known at the port both by the Europeans, Togolese and other nationalities that thronged the port to conduct automobile sales business.
Time was 8.00am and their agent had called upon them to quickly fastrack the clearance of the car they just bought to avoid it being vandalized by the ‘port rats’, as thugs who specialized in stealing car components are called. They were busy with this when suddenly some men in murfy swept on them and ordered them to lie down. They obeyed, only to hear bullet shots piercing their legs.
Mr Shoaga, in an interview with www.thegavel.com.ng explained thus: “The time was almost 8am, and our agent was then calling me to quickly meet up with him so as to clear the already bought car first to avoid vandalizing the car by the thugs at the port. Suddenly we saw some armed men all in mufti signaling us to stop. We stopped immediately, we were ordered to come down and lie on the floor of the port authority, the next thing I could hear was gbum-gbum, before I realized it was a gun shot I was already bleeding, my second was bleeding as well. We were first taken to their dock yard with a Hilux pick up. One commander, Mekpe Joseph, was the head of the Navy in the yard. He ordered some officers to search and inspect the inside of the car, his officers returned with the documents of the already purchased car and nothing more was found. Mr Mekpe was provoked, he started slapping the particular officer that shot at us, asking them, tell me their offense?
From there we were taken again to gendarmerie nationale de lome, where colonel Awdi was the Head. He directed that we should be taken to Tokoin Hospital after hearing the whole story. We were in Tokoin hospital for about 4 hours without anyone attending to us. Later they asked us if we can pay for our services for now. I had 140,000 CFA on me, they helped me to bring it out from my pocket all soaked in my own blood. They have to wash the blood on the money;
“Treatment started immediately. The next day the case was reported to the Nigerian Embassy in Togo, Then H.E Bayo Yusif and Ganiu Adeyemi were the ambassadors in Togo. They quickly called the attention of the then Togolese Defense Minister, late Gen. Hassan Tidjani, to our plight. He (Tidjani) set up a panel of inquiry on July 5 2004 and after the investigations, the military was found guilty”.
The then president, Papa Gnassingbe Eyadema paid for all the treatment of the two Nigerians. He even recommended they should be flown to France so that the bullet and the temporary iron fixed in the leg of Segun koulonou Leopard to support the bone can be removed, because according to the doctor, the iron fixed inside the leg at Tokoin hospital has to be removed within a period of one year alongside the bullet, starting from Sept 9 2000.
Unfortunately, all monies approved by ‘Baba Gnass’ as Togolese students popularly called President Eyademo disappeared within the Togolese Defense Ministry. GTA, the official insurer of Force Armee Togolaise(FAT) paid CFA 125 million to each of the two Nigerians making CFA 250 million all together. But FAT refused to pay the victims.
23 years later, the victims still carry their wounds. Shoaga is carrying a limp while Leopard, frustrated, went back to his village in the Republic of Benin where he made a living as a vulcanizer.
All efforts to get the Togolese Defence Ministry to pay the victims damages ordered by the Tribunal has proved abortive. At one point, Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN intervened by writing a petition to the Togolese Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E Lené Dimban, urging him to prevail on his government to honour the award of its own Tribunal.
In the letter dated November 17, 2017, and signed by Sola Egbeyinka, a lawyer at Falana’s chambers, the human rights activist and lawyer put the issue in the right context thus:
“Upon receiving the complaint of our clients at the Nigerian Embassy in Togo, the police had to conduct an investigation into the complaints. At the conclusion of the investigations, the Togolese government inaugurated a commission of inquiry on May 27, 2003. The commission of inquiry having painstakingly deliberated on the incident of September 8, 2000 in respect it the complaint of our clients, came up with a report that our clients are responsible individuals and as such, indicted the Togolese Marine Military officers pay for their brutal act which occasioned fatal injuries on our clients. The commission absolved our clients of any criminal act and awarded the sum of CFA 250 million in favour of our clients from GTA
Following the release of the report, the Togolese Marine Military officers invited our clients for the collection of the sum of money awarded by the Commission of Inquiries. However, to the dismay of our clients, a former Minister of Defence, General Tidjani, Col. O Arajou, the Director of Cabinet office(FAT) and SGC Magnan ie
The treasurer offered the sum of CFA 5 million to our clients as compensation. Our client rejected the sum on the basis that the Commission of Inquiry awarded CFA 250 million in their favour”.
Falana narrated the harrowing experience of the duo, how they went through surgery in the city of Lome, and how the ‘anatomical structure’ of the victims was destroyed due to the shooting orchestrated by the Marine military men. He therefore urged the Dimban to facilitate the payment of the award. He even threatened a court action against the Togolese government who refused to respond.
In the course of investigating this story, www.thegavel.com.ng got in touch with current Nigerian Ambassador to Togo, H.E Debo Adesina who promised to look into the case. Already all vital information concerning the issue has been forwarded to Ambassador Adesina. It is not however clear if the remaining short term due to change of government in Nigeria will allow him to take action on it.
Meanwhile the duo continue to appeal to the Togolese government to honour the award of its own tribunal. Shoaga in an emotion laden voice said: “Am pleading and begging our president and his smart team as we call him, to please help us before my second, segun koulonou Leopold dies. He has been carrying a bullet and iron in his body for 23 years now, while doctors recommend a year, Togo defense ministry refused to remit the money to us. In Togo, I know Faure, I know his papa, and they don’t like nonsense at all. I want president Tinubu and FAURE to hear our cry, tell him that his papa paid for our treatment but people in the defense ministry shared our money”, he concluded.
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