The ECOWAS Court of Justice has fixed 9th November 2016 to begin hearing in a case brought by 12 persons from Nigeria’s Benue State who claimed to be victims of ‘atrocities’ committed by Fulani herdsmen including the degradation of their environment, the destruction of their ancestral homes, the displacement of their people and destruction of property.

The Applicants claimed in suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/11/16 that within the last three years, Fulani Herdsmen have carried out over 50 (fifty) major attacks on Benue communities the most prominent of them taking place in 15 out of 23 Local Government Areas of the State namely, Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Tarka, Buruku, Katsina Ala, Logo, Ukum, Kwande, Oju, Obi and Konshisha.

Furthermore, they alleged that affected communities have been completely overwhelmed and are now desolate and devastated as they have suffered wanton destruction of their properties and lives including: burning down and general destruction of houses and homes, sundry household items, farms, crops, economic trees, vehicles, machineries, food stuffs, schools etc.

Over 1000 people have been killed, according to documents filed before the Court with hundreds of thousands displaced while others are living in deplorable make shift camps and properties worth billions of naira destroyed in their communities by these ravaging Fulani Herdsmen this year alone.

They claimed that the action of the Defendants’ by not constituting an investigation panel nor taking measures to forestall a reoccurrence, amounted to negligence, was oppressive, arbitrary, capricious, and for Injuring the dignity and pride of the Applicants and for causing them great physical and psychological trauma.

Moreover, they alleged that the defendants refused to take proactive action to provide security for the communities even when facts of predictable attacks and locations of the herdsmen were provided by the community leaders.

Relying on relevant sections of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and other international human rights instruments, and various supporting documents including newspaper clippings, broadcast and online reports, the plaintiffs submitted that the defendants have failed in their obligation to the citizens by violating their rights to life, equal protection, property, etc. 

They are therefore asking, among other things, for an order of the Court directing the Defendants to pay to the Applicants and the affected communities in Benue State damages in the sum of N500 Billion (Five Hundred Billion Naira) only on the footing of exemplary and aggravated damages for unlawful violation of the Applicants’ rights.

They also want the Court to award them N25 million against the defendants to cover the cost of litigation.

At the hearing, the Court granted the motion filed by the 1st to 4th defendants, namely the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the President of Nigeria, the Inspector General of Police and the retired Inspector General for extension of time to allow them file their defence and preliminary objection. 

The case is being heard by Honorable Justices Friday Chijioke Nwoke, Micah Wilkins Wright and Alioune Sall.