By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, filed against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, alleging that he was tortured, assaulted and subjected to inhuman treatment by security operatives when he was arrested in 2015.
The regional court, in its judgement that was read by Justice Dupe Atoki, held that the IPOB leader failed to prove its allegations against FG, saying it had no reason to conclude that his arrest and detention were unlawful and arbitrary as claimed.
The three member panel of the Court also dismissed Kanu’s request for monetary compensation.
Though the Court acknowledged that the IPOB leader had the legal capacity to approach it to seek redress for any violation of his human rights, it however held that without a mandate, he lacked the legal personality to represent the IPOB before the Court.
The court further struck out names of the second and third defendants, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, from the suit on the premise that they were not signatories to the ECOWAS Revised Treat, thus leaving only the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the sole defendant in the suit.
Kanu had the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/06/16, which he filed before the Court on March 3, 2016, through his lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, claimed that his rights to life, personal integrity, privacy, fair trial, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, personal liberty, freedom of association, private property, right to existence and right to self-determination were violated following his arrest and detention by Nigerian security agents.
The plaintiff also alleged that he was a victim of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture inhuman and degrading treatment while in detention, insisting that FG confiscated his personal belongings through its agent.
Kanu, who was hitherto the Director of Radio Biafra, registered under the regulatory laws of the United Kingdom and the United Nations, demanded monetary compensation in the sum of $800 million US dollars.
However, FG’s lawyer, Mr. Abdullahi Abubakar, prayed the court to dismiss the suit which he contended lacked merit.
FG argued that the country was obliged to enforce the rule of law as stipulated in its Constitution, Treaties and Protocol that included defending the sovereignty of an undivided Nigeria.
The counsel added that activities of IPOB were secessionist in nature as it instigated a separationist agenda among the people of the country’s South-East and South-South regions, using its Biafra Radio.
Mr. Abubakar further averred that acts of the plaintiff were intended to garner support for war against the defendant and carve out a geo-political area to be declared “Republic of Biafra.”
Consequently, he said the defendant initiated an investigation into the allegations against the plaintiff that led to his arrest and discovery of illegal firearms and radio transmitters in his possession, items he said posed security risk to the country.
The defendant also submitted that the plaintiff was investigated while in detention for offences of criminal conspiracy, managing and belonging to an illegal society, saying though he was granted bail, he was detained again on fresh charges that bordered on treasonable felony.
It told the regional court that although the plaintiff and some members of IPOB had severally threatened the peace of the nation with their demands, it gave no orders to its agencies to kill members of IPOB nor did any such killings occur.
FG further averred that it remained committed to upholding the rule of law, while recognizing and protecting the fundamental rights of its citizens and all groups, including the IPOB.
Other members of the ECOWAS Court panel that upheld FG’s position and dismissed Kanu’s suit on Wednesday were Justices Edward Amoako Asante and Keikura Bangura.