The ECOWAS Court of Justice on Tuesday, 29th March 2022 dismissed for lack of capacity,  an application filed by two Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’S)  seeking the release by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, of seven death row inmates for the alleged violation of their right to fair hearing and appeal. 

Delivering the judgment of the Court in an application filed by the ‘Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Peace and Conflict Management in Africa’ and ‘Rethink Africa Foundation, Justice Dupe Atoki said the suit was inadmissible because the application was filed by the two NGOs without the mandate of the seven named inmates. 

“All representative actions require the mandate or authorization to act which must be given by the parties on whose behalf the action is initiated,’ the Court said, adding that ‘the exception to these principles is only in situations where the victim is dead or where the action is by a non-governmental organisation and instituted in public interest.”  

The Court noted that since the application was filed on behalf of the seven named living individuals, the NGO’s required a mandate to act for the victims as in a ‘in a representative Application, it is imperative that the Court is convinced that the victims willingly and knowingly delegated their inherent rights to seek redress by themselves to such individuals or organization.” 

The Court, however, noted that it had no record of any authorisation by the alleged inmates and the absence of such mandate renders the application incompetent. 

In suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/44/18, the Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Peace and Conflict Management in Africa and Rethink Africa Foundation had filed the action on behalf of the Applicants whose ages ranged between 24 and 101 years who were convicted for various crimes by different national courts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

In particular, they alleged that the rights of the inmates to a fair trial during their trial and appeal on conviction were violated. 

The NGOs , who were listed as the first of the eight Applicants in the suit,  alleged  that the inmates have endured torture and inhumane conditions in the prisons, which has led to the deterioration of their health even as they live in daily fear of not knowing when they will be executed.  

They  therefore asked the Court to order their immediate release from detention on medical grounds as well as the payment by the Respondent State of the sum of 20,000,000 (Twenty Million naira) to each of the inmates as compensation. 

In its response, the Federal Republic of Nigeria denied all the allegations, saying they did not violate the Applicants’ rights to fair hearing and that under the Nigerian laws, individuals have the right to appeal the decision of the national courts at any time even when the statutory period for appeal has elapsed.  

They also claimed that the medical facilities in the prisons were sufficient to cater for any  medical condition inmates may have during their incarceration. 

The Respondent, therefore, urged the Court to dismiss the Applicants’ claim. 

Also on the panel were Justices Edward Amoako Asante, presiding and Januária T. S. Moreira Costa.