By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA— One hundred and ten victims of the April 2011 post election violence, yesterday at a Federal High Court Abuja instituted an action against the Federal Government alleging that the loss of their property and relatives were caused by negligence and breach of constitutional duty on the part of the government.
The plaintiffs who filed their suit through an umbrella body of senior legal practitioners under the aegis of the Legal Resources Consortium, LRC, led by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr Joseph B. Daudu, SAN, are seeking special and aggravated damages of N100 billion, which stands as the largest claim for victims of crime in the history of the legal system in Nigeria.
Other top public interest litigation lawyers behind the court processes filed at the High Court yesterday were Chief A.J Owonikoko, SAN, and Mr Norrison Quakers, SAN, while the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the State Security Service, SSS, were equally joined as defendants in the suit.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, the NBA President, Daudu, SAN, said the suit was part of a concerted effort aimed at bringing justice to the victims of post election violence.
He disclosed that over 2000 films summarizing the loss of lives and property in several parts of the country would form part of the proof of evidence before the trial court.
The NBA president said: “It is matter of serious regret that innocent lives were lost in a process that was supposed to enhance their lives. Someone somewhere should be held responsible.
“Having waited for the government to take action, the victims are afraid that the issue will be swept under the carpet like in previous occasions, thereby emboldening other persons to perpetuate such nasty actions in future elections.
“Our constitution specifically entrusted the security of lives and property in the hands of the Federal Government, if there is a breach, the government should pay for damages to serve as a deterrent such that next time it will live up to its responsibilities.
“Section 6 of the Constitution permits any citizen to sue the government for civil right breach, it is justiceable and we will pursue the instant case to its logical conclusion.
“However, I must point out that the subject matter of this case has not been tested in court before. There is no precedence for this kind of case but we know there is a cause of action and where there is cause of action there must be remedy.”
The NBA boss maintained that the anger of the victims was fuelled by the fact that none of the perpetrators of the post election violence have been charged to court, contending that punishing the culprits would not even serve as a commiserate compensation in a case where the government breached its statutory duty.
Meantime, the managing partner of the consortium, Mr Olawale Fapohunda, yesterday disclosed that the 100 plaintiffs constituted the first batch of a total number of 2000 persons whose complaints he said were being accessed by LCR, stressing that additional suits would be filled as soon as the review process was completed.
Fapohunda stated that in addition to seeking judicial relief for victims, the group in partnership with the NBA and the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, will pursue with renewed vigour, the Victims of Crime Remedies Bill in the National Assembly, just as he lamented that “the Nigerian justice system pays little or no attention to repairing the social, financial and psychological damage that is suffered by the victims of crime, even at the level of compensation”.