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ECOWAS court orders N2m compensation for #EndSARS victims 

... Amnesty International hails judgement

CITIZENS COMPASS –The Federal Government of Nigeria has been ordered to pay N2m compensation to some #EndSARS protesters.

The Federal Government was found guilty by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) community court of justice of human rights abuses in its response to the #EndSARS protest in October 2020.

The protest was organised by Nigerian youths who manned some strategic areas in Nigeria with various placards.

Lekki-/Tollgate and Ikeja in Lagos as well as Ibadan in Oyo State were not left out of the strategic places manned by a large number of the youths. 

At some points, the protests led to the arrests and incarceration of some of the youths.

The protests were later truncated by some armed uniform men and this led to accusations and counter accusations as some youths were violently maligned with cases of fatalities.

On Wednesday, July 10, 2024, the ECOWAS  court ruled that the Nigerian government’s actions, particularly its disproportionate use of force at the Lekki Toll Gate breached several international human rights standards, including articles 1, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African charter on human and peoples’ rights.

The court mandates the Nigerian government to pay N2 million in compensation to each victim named in the suit.

The court held that the Federal Republic of Nigeria violated the human rights of Obianuju Catherine Udeh, Perpetual Kamsi, and Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka.

The plaintiffs alleged in their suit that during the peaceful protests against the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos State, on 20 and 21 October 2020, the Nigerian government committed multiple human rights violations.

The first plaintiff said soldiers shot protesters, resulting in deaths and injuries, which she live-streamed.

She said she received threatening phone calls that forced her into hiding and eventual asylum.

The second plaintiff, responsible for protesters’ welfare, described how soldiers began shooting after a power outage, leading to her hospitalisation due to police tear gas.

The third plaintiff recounted narrowly escaping being shot, witnessing soldiers refusing ambulance entry, and later observing inadequate hospital care for victims.

The plaintiffs sought declaratory prayers and compensation from the court for these violations.

Nigerian government’s defence

In its defence, the Nigerian government denied all of the applicants’ claims, stating that the protesters unlawfully assembled at Lekki Toll Gate under the guise of protesting against SARS.

The government, through its counsel, submitted that its agents, including the police and military followed strict rules of engagement and did not shoot or kill protesters.

It argued that the first plaintiff incited the crowd by playing music and using her Instagram page to stir disaffection against law enforcement targeting escapee Boko Haram members and bandits.

The government also argued that the second plaintiff’s logistics and welfare support indicated her support for the violent protest.

It claimed soldiers were present to restore peace until police arrived and denied any harm inflicted on protesters or refusal of ambulance access.

The government further argued that the third plaintiff’s presence was meant to escalate violence.

It maintained that the treatment and care of the injured were managed by the Lagos State government and asserted that the plaintiffs had not provided credible evidence to support their claims or reliefs sought.

In its judgement , the ECOWAS Court, rejected the Nigerian government’s defence.

The judge rapporteur, Koroma Sengu, who delivered the judgement, ruled that Nigeria violated the human rights of the three applicants.

The Court found Nigeria in breach of Articles 1, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), concerning the right to life, personal security, freedom of expression, assembly and association, protection from torture, the state’s duty to investigate, and the right to effective remedy.

However, a statement from the ECOWAS Court’s Communication Division detailing the decision, the court dismissed the allegation of a right to life violation under Article 4 of the ACPHR.

However, the court ordered Nigeria to pay each applicant N2 million (two Million Naira) for violations of their rights to personal security, protection from torture, freedom of expression, assembly and association, and the state’s duty to investigate human rights abuses.

The court mandated Nigeria to adhere to its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, investigate and prosecute its security agents responsible for the violations.

It also gave the Nigerian government six months to report the measures taken to comply with the judgement.

The three-member panel comprised Dupe Atoki, Ricardo Claúdio Gonçalves, and Koroma Sengu.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has praised the ruling, calling for the prosecution of perpetrators and redress for victims.



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