On May 30, 2024, the Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, dismissed as inadmissible a case
brought by the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda, a Nigeria-based non-governmental
organization. The organization accused the Federal Republic of Nigeria of violating the human
rights of multiple journalists, alleging that they were killed by government agents while exercising
their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and press. The journalists in question included
Dele Giwa, Bolade Fasisi, Edward Olalekan Ayo-Ojo, Omololu Falobi, Godwin Agbroko, Abayomi
Ogundeji, and Edo Sule-Ugbagwu.
Justice Ricardo Cláudio Monteiro Gonçalves, the Judge Rapporteur who delivered the judgment,
stated that the Court has jurisdiction to hear the case concerning the victims identified as Omololu
Falobi, Godwin Agbroko, Abayomi Ogundeji, and Edo Sule-Ugbagwu. However, he noted that the
Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case regarding the alleged victims identified as Dele Giwa,
Bolade Fasisi, and Edward Olalekan Ayo-Ojo.The Applicant whose mandate includes promoting
and defending the right to freedom of expression, media freedom, and access to information both
online and offline claimed that these journalists were killed between 1986 and 2010 while
exercising their rights to freedom of expression and of the press. The Applicant alleged that the
Respondent, despite obligations under various national, regional, and international laws, has
failed to effectively investigate, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators of these murders.
The Respondent State argued that it is the duty of the Federal Government of Nigeria to protect
the human rights of its citizens against violations by any individual, community, institution, or
official. It claimed it continuously works to protect these rights and is constitutionally and legally
empowered to ensure citizens’ safety and well-being. The Respondent indicated that the Federal
Government has established various agencies to assist in this duty, asserting that it has not
violated any rights of the Applicant or any provisions of the African Charter on Human and
Peoples’ Rights as claimed by the Applicant.
In its judgment, the Court addressed the applicant’s claims regarding the alleged murders of Dele
Giwa, Bolade Fasisi, and Edward Olalekan Ayo-Ojo on 19/10/1986, 31/03/1998, and
01/06/1999, respectively. The Court noted that these incidents constituted specific,
“instantaneous” acts of alleged human rights violations, not continuous violations. As these acts
occurred well in the past, the Court determined it lacked jurisdiction ratione temporis to hear the
case concerning these victims and thus dismissed the application related to them.
For the alleged victims Omololu Falobi, Godwin Agbroko, Abayomi Ogundeji, and Edo Sule-Ugbagwu,
who were purportedly murdered on 05/10/2006, 22/12/2006, 17/08/2008, and 24/04/2010, respectively,
the Court noted that the Applicant claimed violations of their human rights under the African Charter,
ICCPR, and UDHR. The Court found these allegations fell within its temporal jurisdiction and declared
it had the authority to hear the case concerning these victims.
The Court further stated that indirect victims must have proper authorization to access the Court and
receive compensation. Without such authorization, the Court cannot ensure that compensation reaches
the intended recipients. The Applicant, who brought the case on behalf of specific individuals to defend
a public right, did not qualify under the principle of actio popularis. Moreover, the Applicant lacked
authorization from the victims’ relatives, thus lacking the capacity to bring the case. Consequently, the
Court dismissed the action due to the Applicant’s lack of standing.
The panel included Hon. Justice Gberi-bè Ouattara, presiding, and Hon. Justice Dupe Atoki, Member.