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ECOWAS court dismisses NGO’s human violation suit against Nigeria

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has dismissed a suit filed by a non-governmental organization (NGO) over alleged claims of human rights violations against Nigeria, for want of evidence.

The NGO, the Registered Trustees of Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre (HEDA), had prayed the court to sanction Nigeria for breaching its international obligation to protect human rights.

Responding, however, the Nigerian government denied all the claims made by the NGO, and averred that the claims were baseless, lacked facts and evidence, and urged the court to dismiss them.

Delivering judgment, Justice Sengu Koroma, the Judge Rapporteur, held that all the claims of rights violations were lacking in facts and evidence in support of the allegations.

Justice Koroma, who presided alongside Justices Dupe Atoki and Ricardo Gonçalves on the panel, also ordered the NGO to pay a nominal cost of one hundred thousand naira to the Nigerian government.

According to the court, the Respondent adduced proof of updated laws on the regulation of the petroleum industry and other implementation measures taken to improve the environment in oil producing area and decrease gas flaring in the country.

It also noted that the NGO did not counter the submissions of the Respondent concerning such efforts to protect the host communities.

Justice Koroma further held that HEDA failed to provide any evidence supporting its claim of loss of lives, breach of the right to dignity of the human person, breach of right to physical and mental health, and lack of provision of a healthy environment owing to gas flaring.

HEDA, which focuses on anti-corruption, and non-partisan human rights and development in Nigeria, had in the application marked: ECW/CCJ/APP/40/21 filed on 22 July 2021, also prayed the court to award it damages.

It also prayed for orders of the court compelling the government to enforce gas flaring regulations against defaulters, and direct it to collect fines from defaulters.

NAN reports that the NGO had also prayed the court to declare that continuous gas flaring in Nigeria was illegal and a gross violation of fundamental rights, and that the Nigerian government was obliged to stop gas flaring in Nigeria.

The applicant had further alleged that Nigeria failed to guarantee the rights to life, dignity of the human person, physical and mental health, and right to healthy environment for Nigerians residing in oil producing areas.

The NGO had placed reliance on Articles 1, 4, 5, 16 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), stressing that gas flaring was exposing the the oil producing inhabitants to hazards of cancer, lung damage, deformities in children and skin problems.

It had also claimed that environmental pollution from gas flaring contributed to global warming and climate change, adding that Nigeria’s failure to tackle it, had resulted in damaging effects on lives, the environment and monetary loss.

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