ECOWAS Court Rejects Nigeria’s Application For Reversal Of N20m Award To Ex-Death Row Inmates

ECOWAS Court Rejects Nigeria’s Application For Reversal Of N20m Award To Ex-Death Row Inmates

The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abidjan, Cote D`Ivoire, has dismissed Nigeria government’s request for the reversal of a last year’s judgement awarding N20 million to two former death row inmates.

The court had in its judgment delivered on November 18, 2020, awarded N10 million to each of then 88-year-old Abu Dennis Uluebeka, and 48-year-old Mary Bahago.

Mr Uluebeka was said to be on death row for 15 years until his release in May 2019.

On her part, Ms Bahago, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after spending 20 years on death row, remains in the Nigerian Correctional Service facility in Suleja, Niger State. Her case was filed by the Incorporated Trustees of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Management.

According to a statement by the court’s information unit, Ms Bahago’s death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment as from October 27, 2020, and she has since been held at Suleja Prison, Niger State.

But Mr Uluebeka, who was formerly of Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Lagos, has since been released from custody.

The court in its judgement awarded the N20 million to them as compensation for “the inhuman treatment they suffered while in custody”.

The Nigerian government had subsequently filed an application at the court to challenge the awards.

But delivering judgement on Tuesday, Januária Costa, the Judge Rapporteur in the case, stated that the application was inadmissible because of the State’s inability to disclose any new fact to the court in accordance with the Rules.

The panel of three judges, led by Dupe Atoki, held that what the applicant relied upon as a new fact seemed to be an ordinary appeal which cannot be brought to the court because of the finality of its judgment.

Grounds of Nigeria’s application

Among the grounds of the application was that their judges erred in law and in fact when they “approbated and reprobated” on several similar issues, where uniform pronouncements or holdings ought to have sufficed in their judgment.

The applicant also contended that the court erred when it held the state of Nigeria liable to pay N10 million to each of the applicants for allegations that were not proved beyond reasonable doubt by the applicants.

Furthermore, the Nigeria government maintained that the judges erred in law and facts when they refused to apply the applicable national laws of the parties before them, but relied on the foreign laws and decisions not recognized, applicable or enforceable in Nigeria.

The applicant also argued that the court contradicted itself in some paragraphs of the said judgment where it ruled in favour of respondents/applicants based solely on “objective conclusion” and not established rules of “proof beyond reasonable doubt.”

Therefore, the applicant among others, prayed that paragraphs 184 to 208 and paragraphs 211(b) and 212 in respect of Abu Dennis Uluebeka and others against the Federal Republic of Nigeria in judgment no. ECW/CCJ/JUD/29/20 of November 18, 2020, be expunged and set aside from the court’s records.

Responses to application

On their part, in response to the applicant’s submissions, the respondents submitted that the applicant failed to reveal any new fact warranting any interpretation or a review of the judgment.

They argued that the applicant practically admitted the case of the respondents during the initial proceedings by admitting that the two respondents (then applicants) were in custody and on death row, facts that did not require any further proof and which formed the basis for the court’s 2020 decision.

Also on the panel of judges in the suit was Keikura Bangura.

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