The ECOWAS Court of Justice has fixed 30th October, 2017 to receive the final report of an ongoing settlement by parties in a suit filed by 20 persons in which they accused the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of negligence in the disposal of ordinance from the country’s war.

The Court had fixed 10th October, 2017 to enable the parties report on the status of their ongoing efforts towards an amicable settlement.

However, the parties told Court on the  10th October 2017 date fixed for reporting on the status  that the report of the settlement was ready but awaiting the signature of one of the parties and asked for more time to enable them conclude the process.

The panel of three judges of the Court, presided over by Honorable Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke then granted the request for a short adjournment at the instance of the country’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice,  after the parties acknowledged that substantial progress had been made with the settlement and more time was needed to finalise the terms.

In the suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/06/12, Vincent Agu and 19 others alleged the violation of their fundamental human rights following the alleged failure of the government to clear landmines, bombs and explosive remnants of the country's three year civil war which left them vulnerable as the government used conventional weapons, landmines, explosive ordinance and bombs with long life span.

Counsel to the first, second, third and sixth respondents, Mr Femi Falana told the court that 'tremendous progress' towards the resolution of the matter, a position that was supported by Mr Charles Uhegbu, Counsel to the fourth and fifth defendants.

They contended further that at the end of the war in 1970, the second and third respondents did not take steps to clear or remove landmines, bombs explosive remnants of war, from the Applicants communities and did not take steps to embark on mine risk education and mine reduction measures which left the civilian population vulnerable.

As a result of the alleged negligence of the first, second and third defendants, the plaintiffs said that bombs are still exploding in various parts of the victims/Applicants areas 42 years after the war which has rendered agricultural activities in those areas comatose as the residents of the various communities are afraid to get into their farms as many have been killed or injured by the explosives. 

They characterized this as a violation of Applicant's and their communities' right to affordable access to food, and good environment for fiscal, physical and mental development.

They  asked the court to, among other things, declare  that in line with the provisions of Articles4,5 16(1).(12),18(1)(4),19,22(1),24,60 and 61 of African Charter on Human and people`s Rights, the government and its Agencies have failed to implement these provisions in a manner that benefits the Applicants who had been duly pre-enumerated and identified as mine Victims and Survivors and there by violating their  human rights.

Moreover, they asked the court for an order directing the Defendants to domesticate the Law on Mine Ban Treaty, the 1st 2nd, 3rd and 6th Defendants and take an inventory of the remaining landmines in their holding to ensure regulated usage.

They also urged the court to award them N50 million in compensatory damages and another 50 Billion in general damages against the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth defendants jointly and severally.

However, the fourth and fifth Defendants entered a joint defense and denied all averments contained in the Applicants claim as they have the same directors and that the 5th Defendant legally took over the 4th Defendant upon incorporation.

They averred that the 4th Defendant was contracted by the 2nd Defendant to enumerate, clear and destroy all land mines threatening the lives of the people of the former Eastern Region.

Moreover, they said that they embarked on Mine Risk Education and Mine Awareness Campaign by the means of hand bills, posters, and radio and television jingles but did not get to the phase of compensation or rehabilitation of victims before they were ordered to stop work. 

They also contended that as agents of the disclosed principal, their duty, obligation and or responsibility to the Applicant does not exceed the terms of the contract in question and therefore asked the Court to strike out the names of the 4th and 5th Defendants and dismiss this action for wanting in bona fide and merit.

On their part, the first, second, third and sixth Defendants on their part raised a preliminary objection alleging that the claims of the Applicants are common law Claims which are wrongly brought under the fundamental rights procedure.

Also on the panel were Honorable Justices Yaya Boiro and Alioune Sall also on the panel.