The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has awarded the sum of N5 million (five million naira) in compensation for damages to a Nigerian citizen, Mr. Godswill Tommy Udoh for the violation of his human rights by security agents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Court also ordered the Nigerian government to bear the cost of litigation in the suit in which the Court characterised the arrest of Mr. Udoh as ‘arbitrary and unlawful’ but dismissed the allegation of ‘degrading and inhuman treatment’ as unsubstantiated/unproven.

In suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/17/15, the plaintiff said he was arbitrarily arrested on 24th January 2015 and detained for two nights and three days by agents of the defendant in the course of an investigation to arrest an impostor named Shola on a matter he knew nothing about.

In the suit, he also claimed being subjected to ‘dehumanizing treatment’ in the manner he was pushed into the vehicle, blindfolded and handcuffed on both hands and feet.

He alleged that upon his release, he wrote a letter of complaint dated 11th February 2015 on his ordeal through his counsel to the head of the security agency of the defendant and subsequently followed up with a second letter dated 10th March 2015, both of which were ignored.

Consequently he sought reliefs from the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to declare that his arrest and detention were arbitrary, illegal, unlawful and violated his fundamental rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement as guaranteed by relevant international legal instruments.

He also prayed the Court for a declaration, inter alia; that the physical assault, torture, intimidation, insults on the plaintiff constituted a violation of his rights to human dignity, and that the seizure of the plaintiff’s wrist watch, belt, shoes and telephone for three days is unlawful.

He also sought an injunction against his further arrest by the plaintiff and an order for compensation from the plaintiff in the sum of N150,000,000 for damages. 

The three member panel of the Court who heard and determined the case on its merit, comprised of Honorable Justice Professor Friday Chijioke Nwoke; Honourable Justice Micah Wilkins Wright and Honourable Justice Professor Alioune Sall.

In another case suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/26/15, the Court has fixed 7th December 2016 for Ruling, after hearing the arguments of both parties on the preliminary objection filed by the Defendant, Federal Republic of Nigeria, challenging the competence of the Court to hear cases of domestic violence.

The Plaintiffs, Women Advocate Research and Documentation Center & Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, an NGO with headquarter in Republic of the Gambia, filed the suit on behalf of a Nigerian citizen, Miss Mary Sunday, the alleged victim of domestic violence. The plaintiffs averred that the 30 year old Nigerian was scheduled to attend a training at Police Academy Kano but fell victim of domestic violence caused by her fiancé which resulted in severe bodily burns requiring surgery.   

Counsel to the Plaintiffs, Mrs. Emmanuella Azu submitted that a report of the investigations carried out by the Nigerian police accused Miss Sunday of intentionally inflicting the burns on herself.  The plaintiffs rejected the said report and alleged that all attempts to re-open the investigation have been frustrated.

In its defence, Counsel to the defendant, Mr. Sadiq G. Abdullahi  moved its preliminary objection, challenging the competence of the Court to hear the matter on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked locus standi to appear before the Court, and that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear matters of domestic violence as in this case. The defendant consequently urged the Court to dismiss and strike out the case for lack of merit.

In his Reply, Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Oludayo Fagbemi argued that the case was filed before the Court for human rights violations pursuant to Article 3 of the Supplementary Protocol of the Court that gives the Court the competence to determine matters of human rights violation of citizens of the Community, including that of the victim.

He further argued that the Plaintiffs, Women Advocate Research and Documentation Center is an NGO legally registered in Nigeria and therefore representing the victim whose right was violated in Nigeria and urged the Court to dismiss the defendant’s objection and hear the matter on its merit. The Court has therefore adjourned the matter to 7th of December 2016 for Ruling on the Preliminary Objections of the Defendant.