The ECOWAS Court of Justice has ordered the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pay a soldier, Private Barnabas Eli, the sum of 10 million as compensation for the violation of his right to work following his dismissal from the Army for the loss of his rifle in 2012 for which he was sentenced to two years imprisonment by a court martial without recourse to the confirming authority before enforcement.
It also ordered the government to pay the Applicant the arrears of his salary and other entitlements from March 2015 to the date of his release from detention.
Delivering a default judgment under Article 90(4) of the Rules of the Court following a motion filed by the applicant on 10th October 2018, the Court also held the government in violation of the applicant’s right to be heard within a reasonable time.
In determining whether the decision of the Court martial required confirmation by the appropriate authority before enforcement, the ECOWAS Court relied on the provisions of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 which stipulates the punishment for the loss of public or service property but required that the decision of such a court martial must be transmitted to a confirming authority for the confirmation of the finding and sentence.
The Court held that although the arrest, detention and trial of the applicant were validly done, the conviction not having been confirmed is ‘null and void.’
Consequently, the Court found in its judgment of Friday, 11th October 2019 ‘that the detention in prison of the applicant was arbitrary and consequently a violation of his rights to liberty contrary to Section 6 of the African Charter.”
However, the court rejected the applicant’s request to hold the government in violation his right to equality before the law; equal protection before the law; right to non discrimination; right to life and to protection from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as punishment on the grounds that evidence were not to support these claims.
In suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/44/16, the applicant who was a member of the Nigerian Army averred that in 2012, in the course of his official duty, a rifle belonging to the Army was stolen at his duty post in Sector 7, Riyom in the country’s Plateau State.
Consequently, he approached the Court to adjudge that his arrest, detention, trial, conviction and subsequent dismissal by the Army is illegal, ultra vires, null and void as it contravenes the provisions of Article 6 of the African Charter and other human rights instruments.
The government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not put up a defence in rebuttal to the claims of the applicant.
On the panel of the Court for the case were Honorable Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara, (Presiding), Dupe Atoki and Januaria Costa.