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Fulani Herdsmen: SERAP takes FG to ECOWAS Court over failure to prevent killings

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have dragged
the Federal Government to the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja
over “failure to prevent, account for and investigate killings, raping,
maiming of Nigerians and other residents, and destruction of property
across the country by herdsmen, the military and police.”

In the suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/15/16 and filed yesterday by Solicitor to
SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, the Plaintiff contends “that the continuing
attacks, killings, raping, maiming of Nigerians and other residents, and
destruction of property by the military, police, herdsmen and other
unknown perpetrators across the country amount to serious violations of
human rights of the rights to life, to the security and dignity of the
human person, and to property.”

The suit reads in part: “The Plaintiff contends that the Defendant is
responsible for these human rights violations and abuses by the military,
police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators which have not been
adequately prevented, investigated or prosecuted by the authorities. These
responsibilities are heightened when an observable pattern has been
overlooked or ignored, such as is the case in this suit.”

“The Plaintiff also contends that the obligation to secure the right to
life is not confined to cases where it has been established that the
killings were caused by an agent of the State. Nor is it decisive whether
those affected or their families have lodged a formal complaint about the
killings with the competent investigatory authority.”

“It is contended that the mere knowledge of the killings by the military,
police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators on the part of the
authorities have ipso facto given rise to an obligation under Article 4 of
the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to carry out an effective
investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killings and to
identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and to provide
reparations to victims.”

“Moreover, the Defendant has a responsibility for those killings, raping
maiming and destruction of property where authorities knew or ought to
have known of an immediate threat and failed to take measures that might
have been expected to avoid those attacks and killings.”

“The Plaintiff further contends that the Defendant has positive
obligations to provide a framework of security for the protection of life,
and to protect the lives of those individuals at risk from unlawful
attacks by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators.
The lack of accountability for the attacks by the military, police,
herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators across the country has continued
to create a culture of impunity which clearly is not compatible with the
rule of law in a democratic society.”

“The Plaintiff contends that the Defendant has a positive obligation to
take measures to secure the right to life, right to security and dignity
of the human person and right to property, and to prevent attacks and
killings by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators
across Nigeria.”

“Human life has a special value and dignity which requires legal
protection. It should be pointed out that those affected in the present
case include the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society.”

“By interpreting the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights so as to
impose on the Defendant obligations to prevent, account for and
investigate killings, raping, maiming of Nigerians and other residents and
destruction of property, whether or not the Defendant is directly or
indirectly responsible, the ECOWAS Court of Justice will be demanding from
the Nigerian government a commitment to securing these rights and to the
reform of the very structure and modus operandi of its legal institutions.
In so doing, the ECOWAS Court will help to address the systemic factors
contributing to the attacks by the military, police, herdsmen and other
unknown perpetrators.”

“A fundamental notion of contemporary human rights law is that victims of
violations enjoy an independent right to effective remedies. This idea is
itself founded on another longstanding legal principle: ubi ius ibi
remedium (there is no right without a remedy).”

SERAP therefore is asking the ECOWAS Court of Justice for the following
reliefs:

1. A DECLARATION that the attacks, killings, raping and maiming of
citizens and other residents and destruction of property and other serious
human rights violations and abuses across the country by the military,
police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators amount to failure by the
Defendant to exercise due diligence to prevent the attacks and killings
and cannot be justified under any circumstances, and therefore constitutes
a serious breach of Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and
commitments to ensure and secure the rights to life, to dignity and
security of the human person, and to property, guaranteed under the
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the UN International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
2. A DECLARATION that the failure of the Defendant to exercise due
diligence and to take steps to prevent attacks, killings, raping, and
maiming of hundreds of Nigerians and other residents and destruction of
property and other serious human rights violations and abuses by the
military, police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators, and to conduct
prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigations and to hold
those responsible to account, is unlawful as it amounts to breaches of
obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights
guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a
state party.
3. A DECLARATION that the failure of the Defendant to provide for an
effective remedy and reparation for the victims, is unlawful as it amounts
to breaches of obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the
human rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’
Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which
Nigeria is a state party.
4. A DECLARATION that the failure of the Defendant to provide an
environment necessary for securing and promoting the enjoyment of the
human rights to life, dignity and security of the person, and to property,
is unlawful as it amounts to breaches of obligations to promote and fulfil
the human rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and
Peoples’ Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
to which Nigeria is a state party.
5. AN ORDER directing the Defendant and/or its agents individually
and/or collectively to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human
rights of Nigerians and residents and communities across the country that
have suffered attacks and human rights violations abuses by the military,
police, herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators.
6. AN ORDER directing the Defendant to investigate all cases of
unlawful killings noted herein and pay adequate money compensation of N50
million to each of the dependents.
7. AN ORDER directing the Defendant and/or its agents individually
and/or collectively to provide effective remedies and reparation,
including adequate compensation, restitution, satisfaction or guarantees
of non-repetition that the Honourable Court may deem fit to grant to the
victims of attacks by the military, police, herdsmen and other unknown
perpetrators.

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