The ECOWAS Court has ruled that it has the competence to hear a case of domestic violence instituted against the Federal Government of Nigeria by two Non-Governmental Organisations on behalf of the alleged victim, Mary Sunday.

The Applicants alleged failure by the Defendant to undertake an ‘independent and impartial investigation of allegations of severe domestic violence’ suffered by the 30 year old Nigerian lady.

In dismissing the preliminary objection of the Nigerian government, the Court ruled on Tuesday, 24th January 2017 that it has jurisdiction to hear the matter brought by Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre and Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, on behalf of the victim, Mary Sunday.

The Court based its ruling on its human rights mandate.

The preliminary objection of the Nigerian government in the suit no  ECW/CCJ/APP/26/15 was premised on three grounds; that the Applicants had not established a cause of action;  that the Applicants have no locus standi and that the Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the case.

But in delivering the Court’s ruling, Honorable Justice Micah Wilkins Wright, who led the panel of three judges, the Court also held that the case was admissible; that the Applicants have established a cause of action and also have locus standi to file the case.

The Court, however, granted the defendant’s motion for extension of time to enable it counter the claims the applicants made out against it.

In the initiating application filed before the Court on the 24th of August 2015, the applicants alleged that Mary Sunday’s fundamental rights were violated by the failure of the defendant to carry out an independent and impartial investigation on the allegations of severe domestic violence suffered by the victim.

They also alleged that these violations constituted gender-biased violence and discrimination against women and demanded N20, 000,000 (twenty million naira) in compensation, for health specific damages and the trauma suffered by the victim.

Also on the panel were Honorable Justices Jerome Traore and Alioune Sall.

In the case of ECW/CCJ/APP/09/15 between Festus A. O. Ogwuche against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Court also held that it has jurisdiction to hear the case.

The Applicant, a lawyer instituted the suit, alleging that he was detained and his certificates seized by agents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in connection with an accused person who jumped bail while on trial in one of the country’s High Courts, about two years after he withdrew representation of the accused.

The Applicant therefore sought ECOWAS Court of Justice to order the release of his law school certificate and that of his junior counsel, who was required to surrender his certificate as a condition precedent to secure bail for the plaintiff while he was in custody of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In addition to the reliefs sought by the Applicant, he also prayed the Court to order the Nigerian government to pay the sum of Five Hundred Million Naira (N500,000,000) in  punitive  and exemplary damages for the violation of his rights and to issue a perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant, its agents, servants and privies from further violating his rights.

However, the defendant, however filed a Preliminary Objection that the matter is status barred.

But the Court ruled that being an international court, it is not constrained by the time limitation of local/national courts.

The Court, in its Ruling read by Hon. Justice Micah Wilkins Wright, held that the matter is admissible and would consequently be heard on its merits.

The Court also held that since the defendant did not file a statement of defence, and has not made appearance in Court, the Court will therefore adjudicate on the case based on the submissions of the Applicant, that is whether whether the seizure of the plaintiff’s document by the defendant amounts to the violation of the defendant’s obligation to its international treaty and consequently, violation of the plaintiff’s fundamental human rights.

The Court however declined the Applicant’s request for an interlocutory order, to enable him retrieve his document. In this regard, the Court held that Applicant’s application for immediate release of his document will be considered along with the substantive suit. 

Costs was reserved for the final outcome of the case and the matter adjourned to 20th March 2017 for hearing of the substantive matter. Also on the panel were Honorable Justices Friday Chijioke Nwoke and Yaya Boiro.