ECOWAS court dismisses Nigeria’s application seeking review of N20 million damages

The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abidjan, Cote D`Ivoire has dismissed an application brought by the Federal Republic of Nigeria asking for a review of the Court’s judgment of 18th November 2020 in which it awarded the sum of N20 million to two former death row inmates for the treatment meted out on them while in prison.

The Court had in 2020 awarded N20 Million to Abu Dennis Uluebeka and Mary Bahago, for inhumane treatment suffered while in custody at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos state and the Suleija Prison in Niger state, respectively.

Abu Dennis was released in May 2019 from custody due to old age after fulfilling the conditions necessary for his release, while Mary Bahago, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment remains in the Nigerian Correctional facility.

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

Among the grounds of the application was that their lordships 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 of 18th November 2020.

Nigeria also contended that the Court erred when it held the State of Nigeria liable to pay the sum of ten million naira (N10, 000.000) to each of the applicants for allegations that were not proved beyond reasonable doubt by the applicants.

Furthermore, Nigeria maintained that the learned justices also 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.

Nigeria also claimed 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. `

Nigeria 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 18th November 2020 be expunged and set aside from the Court’s records.

Responding to the appeal, the Respondents argued that the Applicant (Nigeria), has not revealed any new fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor warranting any interpretation or review of the judgment of the Court.

They argued that the Applicant practically admitted the case of the Respondents during the initial proceedings by admitting that the two Respondents (Abu Dennis Uluebeka and Mary Bahago) 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.

Delivering judgement on the application on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, Honorable Justice Januária Costa, the Judge Rapporteur in the case, stated that the Applicant (Nigeria) was inadmissible because of her inability to disclose any new fact to the Court in accordance with the Rules.

The panel of three judges, led by Honorable Justice 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.

A statement by the Court said that on the panel of judges in the suit was Honorable Justice Dupe Atoki, Honorable Justice Januária Costa and Honorable Justice Keikura Bangura.

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