Hearing has been fixed  for 2nd May 2017 by the Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS in case brought by the father of an alleged kidnapper whose residence was ‘arbitrarily’ demolished on 12th April 2014 under a state government law that allows for the demolition the houses of kidnappers.

In suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/13/14 Chief Damian Onwuham and 12 others are suing the Federal Republic of Nigeria and its Imo State government for the demolition of their residential buildings of three bungalows on suspicion that one of the occupants of the property was a kidnappe.

They also claimed that the said suspect who is the first son of Chief Onwuham, was arrested on 19th December 2012 by agents of the Nigerian government and has since remained under detention without being charged to court.

Furthermore, they claimed that the demolition, which rendered them homeless, was carried out without any fair trial or court order.

The plaintiffs,  comprising natal and extended family members  of the alleged kidnapper, alleged that their fundamental human rights to dignity, privacy, family life, own property, fair hearing and presumption of innocence were violated by the defendant and that they were victims of continuous exploitation as a result of the actions of the state government.

A three member panel of the Court led by Honorable Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke upheld the argument of the plaintiffs regarding its jurisdiction to hear the case, since their cause of action bordered on allegations of human rights violations that occurred within the region.

In its preliminary objection, the Federal Republic of Nigeria had contended that it cannot be held responsible for laws created and implemented independently by the second defendant, the government of Imo State, a component state of Nigeria.

Relying on relevant international legal instruments and jurisprudence, the Court held that the government of Nigeria is internationally responsible for acts or omissions carried out by its component states.

Having dismissed the preliminary objection of the government of Nigeria, the Court affirmed that Nigerian government is the only and proper party before it and  ordered that the case proceed/be heard on its merits and issues of cost be reserved for the final determination of the case.

The plaintiffs are seeking amongst others, a declaration of the Court that the defendant is liable for violation of their rights to human dignity, freedom from exploitation, presumption of innocence, right to own property and that the defendant’s action constituted a trespass.

They are demanding the amount of 50 million naira in general damages, 100,089,140 million naira for special damages and 500 million naira as exemplary damages.

Also on the panel were Honorable Justices Micah Wilkins Wright and Alioune Sall.