ECOWAS Court Fines Nigeria $3.3m For Apo Killing

Apo Killing of armless NigeriansThe Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court has fined Nigeria $3.3m for the September 2013 killing of eight citizens at Apo district in Abuja.

In a ruling on Tuesday, the regional court ordered Nigeria to pay a compensatory damage of $200,000 to each of the family of the deceased citizens and $150,000 to each of those wounded.

Brutal Killing

The incident occurred after a combined team of soldiers and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) carried out a raid on an uncompleted building at Apo.

The victims, whom the DSS had claimed were insurgents, were later found to be commercial motorcycle operators who were taking refuge in the building.

The case was filed a Nigerian Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Nigerian Army and the Department of State Security Services.

In suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/02/14 filed on their behalf by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the Applicants had asked the Court for a declaration that they were entitled to the right to life and that the shooting resulting in death and injury constituted a flagrant abuse of their fundamental human rights to life and dignity of the person as enshrined under international law.

The applicants represented by Mr Aliyu Umar, who led seven other lawyers, asked for $100 million dollars in compensation for the families of each of the deceased and $10 million dollars each  for the surviving victims as compensation for their mutilation.

But in the government’s preliminary objection, Dr Fabian Ajogwu, leading five other lawyers, argued among others that SERAP lacked legal personality and has no locus standi to bring the application, not being a victim or relative of the victim of any human rights violation and has not shown evidence of authority to represent the victims.

He also contended that the Nigerian government had a duty under the country’s constitution to protect the lives and property of citizens; that the law enforcement agents acted within the law in a situation of justifiable necessity while the Applicants’ request for monetary compensation cannot be granted in view of the circumstances of the case.

Counsel to the Nigerian Army, Muhammed Sanni, also raised similar objection while adding that as an organ of the State, which is the proper party to be sued for human rights violations,  the name of the Army should be struck out from the suit.

In addition to canvassing similar positions, the Department of State Security Services, which was represented by Mr Solomon Akunna, described the suit as an abuse of Court process as a similar complaint had been filed before the country’s National Human Rights Commission which necessitated a public enquiry after which 10 million Naira was awarded to each of the families of the deceased and five million Naira for each to the injured.

In the judgement read by Honorable Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, the Court agreed with the Nigerian Army and Department of Security Services that they should not have been joined as parties citing its previous decisions that suits for the violation of human rights could only be filed against States.

On the issue of locus standi, the Court held that it would presume that the regularity of the certificate of incorporation tendered by SERAP, whose authenticity was not disputed by the Defendants, was evidence of its legal personality.  

While acknowledging the validity of the argument that only direct victims could approach the Court for remedy for human rights violations, it said that there were exceptions to the rule.

“These include but not limited to cases of collective interest (usually referred as public interest litigations) and the non-victims receiving authority to act on behalf of the victims or their close relations,” the Court said.

Justice Nwoke said that there was a consensus about the events of that day from both parties mainly that armed agents of the government invaded an uncompleted building occupied by the Applicants, killed some of them and wounded others.

The only issue for determination, the Judges held, is whether the injury caused by the agents of the government constituted a violation of their human rights especially the right to life and whether the death of the deceased was justified by law.

In this regard, the Court held that the State had a responsibility to protect everyone’s right to life which was not diminished in the context of counter-terrorism  and obliged under international instruments to investigate deaths ‘irrespective of how the authorities found about the death whether State authorities were involved or the circumstances’.

Relying on the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Nigerian Constitution and declarations of the UN Human Rights Committee regarding the circumstances under which persons could be deprived of life, the Court concluded that the ‘legality of killing outside the context of armed conflict as in this case, was governed by human rights standards especially the ones concerning the use of force.

“They apply to all government officials who exercise police powers including military and Security forces operating in contexts where violence exist but falls short of the threshold of armed conflict,” the Court said, stressing that the plea of self-defence and necessity claimed by the Defendants must be circumscribed within the limits of force required by human rights law.

Also on the panel were the President of the Court, Honorable Justice Maria Do Ceu Silva Monteiro and Honorable Justice Micah Wilkins Wright.

Ondo Government Suspends Commercial Motorcycle Operations

OndoThe Ondo State Government has ordered the suspension of commercial motorcycle (Okada) operations in Akure metropolis effective from 12 midnight on Friday, July 24, 2015.

This is as a result of the protest by commercial motorcyclists in the city on Thursday, which led to the vandalisation of government property and unwarranted harassment of government officials by the protesters.

According to a press statement made available to newsmen by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Aderotimi Adelola, government is also suspending ticketing activities of commercial motorcycle operators across the state.

Government, in making these decisions, noted that the brigandage and destruction by the commercial motorcycle operators was against registration and identification, which is a must for monitoring, management and security purposes.

However, to get to the root of the protest, government has set up an investigative panel.

Effective from 12 midnight on Friday, any unregistered commercial motorcycle (Okada) would be impounded.

Kano bans use of motorcycles

Disturbed by the incessant attacks by gunmen on motorbikes which have claimed lives in recent times, the Kano State Government has banned the use of motorcycles, popularly known as Achaba, for commercial purposes in the city.

Kano reportedly has the highest number of commercial motorcycles in the country with conservative estimates putting the number of riders in the state at about one million.

According to Channels Television’s correspondent in Kano, the Deputy Governor of the State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on Tuesday held a meeting with the leaders of the various commercial motorcyclists association to inform them of the plan ban on their operation within the metropolis.

Mr Ganduje, who requested that the leaders pass the message of the ban to their members, said though owners of motorcycles can still use their bikes in the city, howbeit not for commercial purposes.

The government also request owners of motorcycles in the state to go and register their bikes at their respective Local Government Areas.

The ban follows similar adoptions by state governments which they say curbs incidents of crime.

Many crimes, particularly attacks on security operatives in the Northern Nigerian State, were carried out by men on motorcycles.

Lagos Assembly threatens total Okada ban

The Lagos State House of Assembly on Monday threatened to ban commercial motorcycle popularly known as Okada out rightly from the State.

Some Okada riders protesting the ban on them from plying 475 roads in the metropolis.

The Speaker of the House, Adeyemi Ikuforiji made the threat following a report on the destruction of government properties by the protesting Okada riders along Ikorodu road.

The House frowned at the attitude of Okada riders in the metropolis, calling on the state government to further strengthen security agencies to protect lives and property.

Mr Ikuforiji, while reacting to the incident said the House would not hesitate to ban Okada out rightly if the riders continue to destroy government property and constitute nuisance in the State.

Some Okada riders went on the rampage in various parts of Lagos State on Monday to protest the ban on them from plying 475 roads in the metropolis.

At Onipanu, on Ikorodu Road, the protesters vandalised about 10 BRT buses during the violent protest against the Lagos State Government.

Armed with sticks, iron roads and other dangerous weapons, the Okada riders hauled stones at BRT buses on Ikorodu road at Onipanu and Palmgrove bus stops.

There was pandemonium in the area and a team of policemen from the Rapid Response Squad, RRS was deployed to the area to quell the protest.
It was gathered that some arrests were made by the police but the number of arrests is yet to be confirmed.

Similarly, the riders also protested in Ikorodu and Ejigbo areas of the state this morning over the ban on them by government. In Ejigbo, the riders blocked the road, causing traffic jam in the area while they carried leaves and chanted anti-government songs. They rejected the ban placed on them from plying 475 roads in Lagos, saying it would cripple their businesses.

The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, confirmed the protest, saying the police moved in on time to quell the protest.

Total war on Okada

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has declared a total war on commercial motorcycle riders plying the 475 prohibited routes in the Lagos metropolis.

Speaking at a forum to enlighten military officials in Lagos, the State governor, Babatunde Fashola solicited the assistance of the army in the implementation of the new traffic law.

“The military gave us this democracy, so there must be a continuing partnership to keep it going,” Mr Fashola said.

The governor however insisted that such partnership would happen “only where the rule of law prevails.”

He said: “About the Okada, for me, I understand the economics of the okada. But it also has the social effects. Many fathers have lost their children; many husbands have lost their wives; many children have lost both parents.

“All we are saying is don’t go on the highways. First because we must even understand, Okadas and vehicles are automobiles; they are not toys; they are mechanical devices and therefore for you to even use them you must go and train. That’s why you go to driving school to go and learn; then they certify you.

“Somebody just pulls okada from any parts of the country he likes, gets onto a truck, he’s going to Lagos and then you entrust your life to that man? As if that was not bad enough, he drives against traffic?