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ECOWAS Court orders FG to pay N10m each to 2 Nigerians ill-treated on death row

NEWSMAN, Abuja – A panel of three judges of the ECOWAS Court of Justice led by Hon. Justice Dupe Atoki has ordered the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pay the sum of Ten Million Naira each as compensation to two persons for the inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered while on death row.

The first and second plaintiffs, Abu Dennis Uluebeka and Mary Bahago, were on death row for 15 and 20 years respectively but the sentence for Mary was commuted to life imprisonment from October 2018 while Abu, an elder of more than 80 years, has been released from prison custody, his representative told the Court.

In awarding the compensation, the Court on Wednesday held that the prolonged delay while ‘awaiting execution in conditions of severe detention where they experienced constant anguish, fear, physical and mental suffering reached the level of severity that constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by the African Charter.’

Delivering the judgment, the judge rapporteur, Hon. Justice Januaria Costa, stated that while the Court was able to conclude that there was infringement of their rights not to be subjected to torture and inhuman treatment, it could not find sufficient and convincing factual evidence to confirm the claim of the first and second Applicants that they were not receiving the needed medical care and treatment while in detention.

In suits nos ECW/CCJ/APP/45/18 and ECW/CCJ/APP/42/18 filed separately but later consolidated following the directive of the Court, Abu Dennis Uluebeka and Mary Bahago, both Nigerians, who were detained at the Kirikiri Maximum prison in Lagos and Suleja Prison, Niger State respectively, alleged the violation of their human rights, right to fair hearing, right to appeal, due process of law and effective remedy while under threat of secret execution by the government.

The first and second plaintiffs now 88 years and 48 respectively, submitted that they were convicted for murder and sentenced to death by hanging and while awaiting execution detained in inhuman conditions and subjected to torture.

They also alleged that they were denied satisfactory legal representation during the trial and have exhausted all their chances and opportunity of appeal. They further stated they were recommended for amnesty by the Federal Board and Committee that visited both prisons recently due to their chronic medical condition and ill health.

Consequently, they urged the Court for an order that the Applicants have suffered extreme mental torture, inhuman and degrading condition having been kept on death row for more than 15 years and without access to adequate medical treatment and that the first and second Applicants by virtue of their age and medical condition are entitled to immediate release from detention.

They also urged the Court to direct the Defendant to pay a monetary compensation of 50,000,000 (Fifty Million Naira) to the Applicants for damages suffered as a result of the long years of been kept in prison under cruel, degrading and inhuman condition among others.

But during the hearing, Counsel to the Defendant Barrister Unyime Ebuk asked the Court to discountenance and strike out the matter for lack of coherence in the reliefs sought by the Applicants affirming that their claims cannot be substantiated.

Two foundations, The Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Peace and Conflict Management in Africa Foundation and Rethink Africa Foundation filed the suit on behalf of Mary Bahago.

Also on the panel for the judgment was Honorable Justice Gberi-be Ouattara, who stood in for Honorable Justice Keikura Bangura. 

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