#EndSARS: ECOWAS Court orders Nigeria to pay victims ₦2m compensation each

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the protests were organized by citizens against SARS, a unit of the Nigerian Police Force at Lekki, Lagos, over its alleged brutality of citizens.

Delivering judgment, Justice Sengu Koroma, the Judge Rapporteur, held that Nigeria must pay each Applicant two million naira as compensation for violation of their ‘rights to security of person.’

The Court also ordered that Nigeria should pay the victims the amount as compensation for ‘violation of their rights to the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment, rights to freedom of expression.’

Other grounds of the compensation as ordered by the court included violation of their ‘rights to assembly, and association, failure of duty to investigate human rights violations, and right to an effective remedy.’

The Court also ordered that Nigeria must adhere to its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ACHPR, and investigate and prosecute its agents, who were responsible for the violations.

The Court further ordered that the Nigerian government must report to the Court within six months on the measures taken to implement the judgment.

Justice Koroma further held that Nigeria breached Articles 1, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the ACHPR.

The law specifics the ‘right to life, security of person, freedom of expression, assembly and association, prohibition of torture, duty of the state to investigate, and the right to effective remedy.

According to the Court, there is, however, no violation of the Applicants’ right to LIFE, adding that the Applicants filed their claims in Vitam.

It said that several articles of the ACHPR were breached by the Nigerian government, which culminated in the fundamental breaches of human rights violation therein.

The Court declared that the Applicants were denied the right to ‘effective, immediate remedy,’ and ordered that the Respondent make reparations to the Applicants for the violation of their fundamental human rights.

Also on the three-member panel were Justices Dupe Atoki, presiding, and Ricardo Claúdio Gonçalves.

NAN reports that the Applicants, Obianuju Catherine Udeh, Perpetual Kamsi and Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka, had alleged that the violations occurred during the peaceful protests at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State between Oct. 20 and Oct. 21, 2020.

The protests, which were triggered by the alleged killing of Daniel Chibuike, aimed to address SARS’ incessant harassment and brutality.

The First Applicant’s claims included that the soldiers shot protesters, resulting in deaths and injuries, which she live-streamed, and subsequently received threatening phone calls that forced her into hiding and eventual asylum.

The Second Applicant, responsible for protesters’ welfare, had alleged that soldiers began shooting after a power cut, leading to her hospitalisation due to police tear gas.

The Third Applicant recounted narrowly escaping being shot, observing the refusal of ambulance entry by soldiers, and later witnessing inadequate hospital care for victims.

She argued that she and her colleagues took over the victims’ care, and she faced ongoing threats and surveillance, believed to be by Respondent’s agents.

The Applicants had sought declaratory reliefs and compensation from the Court for the alleged violations.

Responding, however, Nigeria had through its counsel, denied all the claims made by the Applicants, and argued that the protesters unlawfully assembled at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, under the guise of protesting against SARS.

The Respondent also maintained that its agents followed strict rules of engagement and did not shoot or kill protesters.

It argued that the First Applicant incited the crowd by playing music and using her Instagram page to stir disaffection against law enforcement, which was targeting escapee members of Boko Haram and bandits.

The Respondent contended that the Second Applicant’s provision of logistics and welfare support indicated her support for the violent protest.

It claimed that soldiers were present to restore peace until the police arrived, denying any harm inflicted on protesters and the refusal of ambulance access.

The Respondent also denied that the Third Applicant’s presence was peaceful, asserting it was meant to escalate violence.

It argued that the treatment and care of the injured were managed by the Lagos State government, and submitted that the Applicants did not provide credible evidence to support their claims, or the reliefs sought.

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