Rampaging Herdsmen: SERAP Takes FG To ECOWAS Court
The Registered Trustees of 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.
It stated that 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, the plaintiff said 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.”
It added that 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.