#EndSARS: ECOWAS Court Indicts Nigerian Govt Over Human Rights Abuses, Orders Payment Of N10m To Victims

#EndSARS: ECOWAS Court Indicts Nigerian Govt Over Human Rights Abuses, Orders Payment Of N10m To Victims

3 days ago
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Court Ruling on #EndSARS Protests

The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has indicted the Nigerian Government over human rights abuses during the #EndSARS protests, especially the disproportionate use of force at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on 20th October 2020.

The ECOWAS Court, in its ruling delivered by Judge Rapporteur, Justice Koroma Sengu, also awarded N10 million in compensation to each victim named in the suit.

Human Rights Violations Acknowledged

A statement by human rights activist, Chioma Chuka-Agwuegbo, obtained by Arise News, said the case filed before the ECOWAS Court by a coalition of human rights activists and organizations, alleged severe violations of fundamental human rights by Nigerian security forces.

Amnesty International (AI) also submitted an Amicus Brief, which was declared admissible by the Court.

According to Chuka-Agwuegbo, the ECOWAS Court’s decision underscores the importance of regional judicial mechanisms in holding governments accountable and protecting citizens’ rights.

She emphasized, “This ruling highlights the critical role of civil society in advocating for justice and human dignity.”

Key Findings from the Court

After thoroughly examining evidence and testimonies, the Court concluded that the Nigerian government’s actions breached several international human rights standards, including Articles 1, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

READ ALSONBA President Tasks Federal Government On EndSars Compensation

Violations of Fundamental Rights

The Court found credible evidence of disproportionate use of force and violations of the right to liberty and security, assembly, free speech, and dignity.

It stated that the use of force was unnecessary and contravened Nigeria’s obligations under the African Charter.

Torture and Fear

The Court agreed that the applicants had suffered torture at the hands of the Nigerian government.

The Court found that the situation at the Lekki tollgate, where live rounds were shot into the crowd of unarmed protesters, created a situation of fear, and the Nigerian government did not present evidence refuting those allegations.

Violation of Expression and Assembly Rights

The Court held that the Nigerian government failed to allow and afford the applicants their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, thereby violating their rights under Articles 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter.

Inconsistent Actions with ECOWAS Obligations

The government’s actions were deemed inconsistent with Nigeria’s obligations under the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Court also held that the mechanism set up by the Nigerian government to investigate the allegations of abuse at the Lekki toll gate lacked independence and was questionable.

The State, therefore, failed in its duty of providing an effective remedy under Article 1 of the African Charter.

Compensation and Orders

The Court ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria to pay N10 million each in compensation to the applicants.

Additionally, the Nigerian government has been mandated to conduct investigations into the human rights abuses that occurred, to implement the outcomes of these investigations.

The Court has ordered the government to report back in six months with an update on the compensation and progress of the inquiry.

Reactions to the Ruling

Lead Counsel for the applicants, Bolaji Gabari, hailed the ruling as a significant victory for the #EndSARS movement.

“This ruling is a significant victory for the #EndSARS movement, an acknowledgment that citizens’ rights were violated and abuses occurred at Lekki Toll Gate. We urge the Nigerian government to comply fully with the Court’s orders and take immediate steps to address the systemic issues identified in the judgment,” Gabari said.

Another Counsel to the applicants, Mojirayo Ogunlana, recalled the long journey to victory, starting on December 10, 2021.

She noted that the Nigerian government, as respondents in the suit, failed to put in a defense until 2023, claiming that the #EndSARS peaceful protest was unlawful and perpetuated by hoodlums.

“I am joyous for the applicants and Nigerians who witnessed the abuse and violation on October 20,” Ogunlana said.

Civil Society and Victims Speak Out

Nelson Olanipekun, Executive Director of Citizens’ Gavel, a coordinating organization for the coalition, stated, “The landmark ruling by the ECOWAS Court in favor of EndSARS victims is a powerful affirmation of justice and a significant step towards healing and accountability for the Lekki Toll Gate tragedy.”

One of the applicants, Obianuju Catherine Udeh (DJ Switch), expressed relief and hope, saying, “Not once did I waver in my shared experience of the traumatic events of October 20, 2020, but to sit in court and listen to the esteemed judges, based on the facts, give a ruling in our favor not only reaffirms what I know and experienced but makes this one of the best days of my life since the horrific event.

This judgment becomes a glimmer of hope that we can indeed head in the right direction in service of truth and justice.”

Historical Context of #EndSARS

Prime Business Africa reports that on 20th October 2020, peaceful and unarmed protesters were fired at by Nigerian security agents at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State, Nigeria, bringing a violent end to the #EndSARS protests that began on October 3 in Delta State and had been held across the country.

Nigerians called for justice against police brutality in Nigeria. In December 2021, three victims brought a case before the ECOWAS Court to seek justice for themselves and those impacted by the violations.

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Emmanuel Ochayi is a journalist. He is a graduate of the University of Lagos, School of first choice and the nations pride. Emmanuel is keen on exploring writing angles in different areas, including Business, climate change, politics, Education, and others.

Emmanuel Ochayi is a journalist. He is a graduate of the University of Lagos, School of first choice and the nations pride. Emmanuel is keen on exploring writing angles in different areas, including Business, climate change, politics, Education, and others.

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