The Federal Republic of Nigeria has agreed to pay N50 billion naira in compensation to the victims, families and communities affected in 11 of the country’s 36 States by landmines and bombs, remnants of the country’s three year civil war that ended in 1970, according to the terms of settlement agreed between the government and representatives of the victims.

The affected states are in the South-East, South-South and North Central parts of the country.

Under the terms of the agreement which was adopted by a three member panel of the ECOWAS Court of Justice on Monday, 30th October 2017, the government also agreed to pay another N38 billion naira for the total demining and reconstruction of the communities; rebuilding of public buildings, creation of mine centres, the construction of class rooms and other infrastructure.

Details of the agreement were released following its adoption by the Court which had given the parties until 30th October 2017 to report the final status of their settlement in the wake of a suit by 20 persons who alleged negligence against the government in the disposal of ordinance from the war.
At the last hearing, the parties had at the instance of the Attorney General requested the Court, presided over by Honorable Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, to grant a short adjournment to enable them conclude the agreement as substantial progress had been made with the settlement and more time was needed to finalize 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 to the remnants of the conventional weapons, landmines, explosive ordinance and bombs deployed by the government during the crisis.

They contended further that at the end of the war in 1970, the second and third respondents neither took steps to clear or remove landmines, bombs explosive remnants of war from the Applicant’s communities nor embark on mine risk education and mine reduction measures which left the civilian population at risk.
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, thereby frustrating agricultural activities in the areas as the residents who are mainly farmers are afraid to venture into their farms as many have been killed or injured by the explosives. 

They characterized this as a violation of the 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 for an order directing the Defendants to domesticate the Law on Mine Ban Treaty while the 1st 2nd, 3rd and 6th Defendants should undertake an inventory of the remaining landmines in their holding to ensure regulated usage.

Among the reliefs sought was an order for the payment of  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, R.S.B Holdings Nigeria Limited and Deminers Concept Nigeria Limited the fourth and fifth Defendants respectively entered a joint defense and denied all averments contained in the Applicant’s claim as they have the same directors and that the 5th Defendant therefore legally took over the liabilities of 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 Applicants’ 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 (Federal Republic of Nigeria) second (Ministry of Defense) third (Minister of Defense) and sixth (Attorney General of The Federation and Minister of Justice) defendants 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 Maria do Ceu Silva Monteiro.