Court orders Nigerian government to pay compensation to victims of riot linked to 2011 presidential election
The ECOWAS Court of Justice today ordered the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pay 5 million naira each to the next of kin of 827 persons who were killed in ten communities in the country’s Southern Kaduna following the riot that accompanied the declaration of former President Goodluck Jonathan as the winner of the 2011 presidential elections.
In suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/26/13, the applicants who sued for themselves and all the Muslim members of Southern Kaduna whose lives and properties were affected by the crisis of 18th and 19th April 2011, had asked for about 105 billion naira in compensation from the government for the violation of right to life; right to property; the late deployment of security agents; the failure to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators and failure to conduct prompt and impartial investigation.
In the judgment delivered by Justice Dupe Atoki, in a case brought by The Registered Trustess of Jama’a Foundation and five others, the Court said the award is compensation for the violation of the right to life of the victims.
In awarding the compensation, the Court acknowledged that ‘no sufficient value can be placed on human life,’ but noted that the government ‘failed in its obligation under Article 1 and 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to protect the right to life of the 827 victims.’
It also ordered the government to ‘effectively hold accountable the individuals responsible for the mass killings in Kaduna state and complete their prosecution within reasonable time, ‘as well as put at the Internally Displaced camps for the victims, all the facilities that guarantees their health and general wellbeing.
The Court also ordered the government to pay the sum of 25,000 naira each as compensation to 664 applicants for the destruction of their houses; 5,000 naira each to 220 applicants whose household items were looted while 5,000 naira each should be paid to 123 persons for their motorcycles that were burnt.
It also awarded 15,000 naira for each of the 45 mosques vandalized and burnt; 15,000 naira for each of the five Islamiyah Schools vandalized and 10,000 naira to each of the 220 applicants for the destruction of their market stalls.
The Court took note of the plea by the government that it released the sum of 5.7 billion to the nine states affected by the violence including Kaduna State but neither pleaded the amount released nor the amount paid to the applicants who are victims, adding that ‘no evidence was submitted in support of the alleged release of the 5.7 billion naira nor the amount paid to the applicants’ from the amount.
“The Court recalls that before the closure of this case for judgment, the Respondent was availed two adjournments over a period of 10 months to provide the relevant proof of the payments alleged to have been made to the applicants,” Justice Atoki said, adding that the Court was then forced to conclude that the Respondent has not established any evidence of the payment of compensation to the victims.
“The Court is a court of justice and not of speculations, its decision must be based on facts laid before it,” the court added in its judgment.
However, the court held that the government ‘complied with its obligation to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation and thus not in violation of that obligation contrary to one of the grounds canvassed by the plaintiffs.
Prior to making the orders, the court had declared that contrary to the preliminary objection of the Respondent, the Applicant has locus standi to act on behalf of the victims and that Article 4 of the African Charter was violated in respect of the killings arising from the attack in Zonkwa, Fadan Daji, Gidan Maga, Daddu, Farman, Madakiya, Matsirga, Samara Kataf, Maraban Rido and Unguwan Rimi in the southern Kaduna district of Kaduna State.
Also on the panel for the case were Justice Gberi-be Ouattara (presiding) and Justice Keikura Bangura.