The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project said the ECOWAS Court has entered judgment in favour of some residents of Bundu Ama, in Port Harcourt, who were brutalised by security forces while protesting the demolition of their settlement by the government in 2009.
According to SERAP, following the judgment of the ECOWAS Court, the Federal Government of Nigeria had paid the victims N6.5m as compensation.
The plaintiffs – Israel Okari, Joy Williams, Austin Onwe, Tamno Ama, Victor Opium, Mark Bomowe, Napoleon Tokubiye, Napoleon Tokubiye, Jonathan Bokoko, Williams Tamuno and Linus John, had with the support of SERAP instituted the suit numbered ECW/CCJ/APP/10/10 against the government.
The plaintiffs, who were represented by Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had joined as the respondents in the suit the Attorney General of the Federation and former Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi.Also joined as respondents were the Rivers State Commissioner for Justice and the state’s Commissioner for Urban Development.
They had, in their statement of claims, averred that armed security forces on 12 October 2009 “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 plaintiffs also accused the Rivers State government of aiding “the Federal government’s planned large-scale demolitions of the city’s waterfront settlements, home to at least 200,000 people.”They further claimed, “The planned large-scale demotions were developed without adequate consultation with affected communities.
“Njemanze waterfront, a community close to Bundu Ama, was demolished in August 2009 and an estimated 13,800 to 19,000 people were forcibly evicted from their homes. Thousands of people, including children, women and the elderly, were left homeless and vulnerable to other human rights violations.
”According to SERAP, the court in its judgment, “ruled that there was no justification for the shootings and that the Nigerian government had breached its obligation to protect and respect the right to peaceful association and assembly.
”The court was said to have berated the Federal Government for “its failure to investigate and prosecute members of the security forces who killed and injured protesters, violated the right to protest.” And “awarded a total of N11m – nearly $70,000 USD – in damages” in favour of the plaintiffs.
Reacting to the judgment, the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, lauded the government for complying with the court’s judgment and paying the victims the compensation awarded to them. “We welcome the payment of compensation by the government.
This shows that there is penalty for the government when it allows its security forces to use excessive force against peaceful protesters, and unlawfully drive them away from their homes, with tragic consequences for citizens and communities.
That was the case here.”Mumuni, however, urged President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to implement the outstanding orders of the ECOWAS Court in the case.