Four years after, the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Abuja has held that the refusal of the government to investigate and prosecute security operatives that killed and maimed protesters in Port-harcourt violated their right to peaceful protest.
In a judgment delivered in a suit filed before the court by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) alongside some residents of Bundu Waterfront community, Port Harcourt over attacks on them and their relatives, the court ordered the government to pay $70,000 in damages to the plaintiffs.
The court held the rights to peaceful assembly and association are the foundation of a civilised society, while it imposed damages against the government for the violations of the plaintiffs’ human rights to peaceful assembly and association and freedom from forced evictions.
Attorney General of the Federation; Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi; Commissioner for Justice Rivers State; and the Commissioner for Urban Development, were joined as Defendants.
However, the River state government was absolved of any wrongdoing by the court, being not a party to ECOWAS protocols and agreements.
It nonetheless, stated that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is responsible for the persistent infringement of the human rights and prolonged suffering of the residents of Bundu Waterfront community, Port Harcourt.
According to the Plaintiffs, “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 it is estimated between 13,800 and 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.”
In its response, SERAP stated: “This judgment shows that there is punishment 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.
“As the rulings of the ECOWAS court are binding, the Nigerian government will be under pressure to implement this judgment and align its policing practices with international human rights standards.” It added.
It would be recalled that Israel Okari; Joy Williams; Austin Onwe; Tamno Tonye Ama; Victor Opium; Mark Bomowe; Napoleon Tokubiye; Napoleon Tokubiye; Jonathan Bokoko; Williams Tamuno; and Linus John with the support of SERAP dragged the governments to the court in 2010.
The Suit Number ECW/CCJ/APP/10/10 dated 29 October 2010, was filed on behalf of SERAP and the residents by Femi Falana, SAN, Adetokunbo Mumuni and Sola Egbeyinka.