ECOWAS Court to give judgment in SERAP’s case on killings by herdsmen, others

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By Godiya Garba

The ECOWAS Court of Justice, Abuja has this morning heard arguments in the case brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) against the Federal Government seeking “justice and accountability for the authorities’ failure to prevent, account for and investigate killings, raping, maiming of Nigerians and other residents, and destruction of property across the country by herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators.”

The Court adjourned the suit to 22 April, 2021 for judgment after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana, SAN, and the government lawyer Mr Adedayo Ogundele.

In the suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/15/16, SERAP is arguing that, “the continuing attacks, killings, raping, maiming of Nigerians and other residents, and destruction of property by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators across the country amount to serious violations of human rights of the rights to life, to the security and dignity of the human person, and to property.”

Femi Falana, arguing the case, said: “The government has not denied the serious averments by SERAP. The government is responsible for the unlawful killings by herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators, which have not been adequately prevented, investigated or prosecuted by the authorities. These responsibilities are heightened when an observable pattern has been overlooked or ignored, such as is the case in this suit.”

Falana also argued: “The government has a responsibility to protect and ensure the security of life and property of everyone in Nigeria. It is not enough for the government to say that civil cases have been brought by some of the victims. The government has a responsibility to investigate, fish out the perpetrators and prosecute them, and to compensate the victims.”

The suit, reads in part: “SERAP also contends that the obligation to secure the right to life is not confined to cases where it has been established that the killings were caused by an agent of the State. Nor is it decisive whether those affected or their families have lodged a formal complaint about the killings with the competent investigatory authority.”

“It is contended that the mere knowledge of the killings by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators on the part of the authorities have ipso facto given rise to an obligation under Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killings and to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and to provide reparations to victims.”

“Moreover, the Defendant has a responsibility for those killings, raping maiming and destruction of property where authorities knew or ought to have known of an immediate threat and failed to take measures that might have been expected to avoid those attacks and killings.”

“SERAP further contends that the Defendant has positive obligations to provide a framework of security for the protection of life, and to protect the lives of those individuals at risk from unlawful attacks by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators. The lack of accountability for the attacks by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators across the country has continued to create a culture of impunity which clearly is not compatible with the rule of law in a democratic society.”

“SERAP contends that the Defendant has a positive obligation to take measures to secure the right to life, right to security and dignity of the human person and right to property, and to prevent attacks and killings by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators across Nigeria.

“Human life has a special value and dignity which requires legal protection. It should be pointed out that those affected in the present case include the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society.”

“A fundamental notion of contemporary human rights law is that victims of violations enjoy an independent right to effective remedies. This idea is itself founded on another longstanding legal principle: ubi ius ibi remedium (there is no right without a remedy).”

SERAP therefore is asking the ECOWAS Court of Justice for the following reliefs:

A DECLARATION that the attacks, killings, raping and maiming of citizens and other residents and destruction of property and other serious human rights violations and abuses across the country by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators amount to failure by the Defendant to exercise due diligence to prevent the attacks and killings and cannot be justified under any circumstances, and therefore constitutes a serious breach of Nigerias international human rights obligations and commitments to ensure and secure the rights to life, to dignity and security of the human person, and to property, guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
A DECLARATION that the failure of the Defendant to exercise due diligence and to take steps to prevent attacks, killings, raping, and maiming of hundreds of Nigerians and other residents and destruction of property and other serious human rights violations and abuses by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators, and to conduct prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigations and to hold those responsible to account, is unlawful as it amounts to breaches of obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
A DECLARATION that the failure of the Defendant to provide for an effective remedy and reparation for the victims, is unlawful as it amounts to breaches of obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
A DECLARATION that the failure of the Defendant to provide an environment necessary for securing and promoting the enjoyment of the human rights to life, dignity and security of the person, and to property, is unlawful as it amounts to breaches of obligations to promote and fulfil the human rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
AN ORDER directing the Defendant and/or its agents individually and/or collectively to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of Nigerians and residents and communities across the country that have suffered attacks and human rights violations abuses by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators.
AN ORDER directing the Defendant to investigate all cases of 
unlawful killings noted herein and pay adequate money compensation of N50 million to each of the dependents.
AN ORDER directing the Defendant and/or its agents individually and/or collectively to provide effective remedies and reparation, including adequate compensation, restitution, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition that the Honourable Court may deem fit to grant to the victims of attacks by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrator.

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