The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has awarded the sum of fifteen million (15,000,000) Naira against the federal government as compensation for prejudice suffered by a Nigerian lady, Mary Sunday who was the victim of domestic violence by the fiancé, a policeman and agent of the government.
The court said on Thursday, 17th May 2018, that the compensation was for the violation of the plaintiff’s right to effective remedy before a competent national court because of the lack of diligence in the investigation and prosecution of the case, which was brought by two Non-governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and the victim.
The Women Advocates and Documentation Centre and the Institute for Human Rights and Development In Africa, filed the case asking for twenty million (20,000,000) Naira in compensation for the victim who suffered severe facial burns after the fiancée, Corporal Isaac Gbanuan allegedly poured hot oil on her during a domestic dispute.
A panel of three judges of the court held the Nigerian government liable for the administrative malfunction of the judicial services of Lagos State following the loss of Mary Sunday’s file at the state Ministry of Justice in the aftermath of the death of the Investigating Police Officer.
The Court considered the ensuing effect as a violation of the plaintiff’s right of access to justice, right to be informed of the procedure/process to which she is a party, and right to be heard within reasonable time.
However, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s allegations of gender-based discrimination and violation of the victim’s right to good medical care.
Counsels to the plaintiffs – Women Advocates and Documentation Centre and the Institute for Human Rights and Development In Africa, and the victim, Mary Sunday, filed the case with suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/35/15, on 24 August 2015.
In the initiating application, the plaintiffs alleged that the Nigerian Government violated Mary Sunday’s right to dignity of the human person and freedom from torture; right to a remedy; right to health and right to freedom from gender-based discrimination amongst others.
They also averred that Mary Sunday suffered severe physical/burn injuries, psychological, moral and emotional trauma from the violent attacks from her fiancé, a policeman and agent of the defendant, following a domestic dispute.
Counsels representing the plaintiffs, Barristers Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Gaye Sowe, and Oludayo Fagbemi submitted that they were surprised to discover that Corporal Gbanuan was exonerated as observed in the report of the investigation of the police published in a Nigerian newspaper.
They further argued that they were amazed that the statements reviewed for the police report did not include those of both persons involved but rather those from purported eyewitnesses while the victim’s statement was only taken on 21 June 2015 after more than two years of the newspaper publication.
They opined that the malfunction of the judicial services of the Defendant State equally violated Mary Sunday’s right to effective remedy, and demanded compensation.
But the defence counsel, Barrister Henrietta Ekeng argued that the report of the police investigation revealed the incident was an accident resulting from domestic dispute that was reported and investigated. She also argued that the incident occurred outside the official working hours of the policeman and therefore the State should be exonerated.
A panel of three judges including Honorable Justices Yaya Boiro, Chijioke Nwoke and Alioune Sall, who presided, deliberated on the case.