The ECOWAS Court of Justice in its judgment delivered on 28 February 2024, held the Nigerian government liable for the violation of the rights of Mr Abiodun Ilesanmi and ordered payment of Two Million Naira as compensation to him. 

Justice Sengu Mohamed Koroma, Judge Rapporteur who read the judgment said, the Court had jurisdiction to hear the case and declared it admissible. On the merits, it held that Nigeria violated the Applicant’s fair trial rights specifically the right to be heard within reasonable time as guaranteed under Article 7 (1)(d) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

However, the Court dismissed the claims of violation of rights to personal liberty and dignity of the human person on the grounds of lack of sufficient evidence.

It also dismissed all other claims and ordered both parties to bear their costs of litigation.

In the case with suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/21/21, filed before the Court on 24 May 2021, Mr Abiodun Ilesanmi, a Nigerian trader residing in Lagos, Nigeria, alleged that his rights to personal liberty, dignity of the human person, presumption of innocence and right to fair hearing were violated by agents of the Respondent State, Nigeria.

Mr Ilesanmi who was represented by his lawyer Mr Abubakar Marshal, told the Court that agents of the Respondent State unlawfully arrested him at his house on 2 April 2021 and also took away some of his documents and money.

He contended that he was detained in solitary confinement under inhuman and degrading conditions and that though he was granted administrative bail, the conditions were stringent and difficult to attain. 

On their part, Mrs Aatikat Rufai, lawyer representing the Nigerian government denied the claims of Mr Ilesanmi. She stated that Mr Ilesanmi was released on administrative bail on 13 June 2021.

Furthermore, she said that Mr Ilesanmi was a major smuggler of a banned commodity and that his arrest, interrogation and release were carried out in full compliance with the law. She added that a nationwide strike by staff of the State’s judiciary prevented them from obtaining duly issued search warrant to search nine other shops linked to Mr Ilesanmi.

In its analysis on the alleged illegal arrest, the Court noted the intelligence report including evidence of banned commodities recovered from Mr Ilesanmi’s house,                                                                                                                                                   and declared his arrest did not contravene the provisions of  Article 6 of the African Charter as claimed.

The Court also observed that there was insufficient evidence to support the claims of violation of his rights to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Articles 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and dismissed the claim, but held that his right to fair trial within reasonable time was violated.

Other judges on the bench were Justices Gberi-Bè Ouattara, presiding, and Dupe Atoki, member.