By Innocent Anaba
The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, sitting in Abuja, has awarded N11 million against the Federal and Rivers State governments over the shooting of residents evicted from Bundu Waterfront and its surrounding communities in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
It will be recalled that on October 12, 2009, armed security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters in Bundu Ama, an informal settlement in Port Harcourt, leaving at least one person dead and 12 seriously injured.
The total number of dead remains unknown because the government not only refused to undertake an inquiry into the incident, but denied any such incident happened.
The inhabitants consequently approached the ECOWAS court through a civil rights group, Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP.
The court in its judgment, yesterday, held that there was no justification for the shootings by the police during the protests.
It also held that the Nigerian government had breached its obligation to protect and respect the right to peaceful association and assembly.
Reacting to the judgment, Amnesty International and Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform, CMAP, said: “This remarkable victory brings to a close a long battle for justice by members of the community of Bundu Ama, who were unlawfully killed and injured at the hands of Nigerian security forces.”
Joy Williams, one of the applicants, who was 17 years old when she was shot on the leg during the incident, said: “We have come a long way and achieved a great goal.
“Our community refused to lie down and become victims, but instead took action and have now beaten the government in court.”
Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director, said: “It sends a clear message to governments that they cannot violate people’s rights with impunity.”