Human rights lawayer, Femi Falana sues FG over Nigerians’ inability to access the 'African Court'


Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to order the Federal Government to recognise the competence of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights to hear cases filed by Nigerians.  

The suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/356/2019, was filed last Friday and comes up for hearing on 10/5/19. The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) is listed as the sole defendant in the suit.  

Falana wants the Federal Government, through the AGF, to justify why victims of human rights violations and relatives of Nigerian citizens killed in other African countries cannot challenge such violations and demand compensation in the African Court. The lawyer averred that Nigeria is among the African nations whose citizens cannot access the court because their countries have yet to make the needed declaration accepting the continental court’s competence.

Falana is seeking three reliefs, as follows:
“A declaration that the failure or refusal of the Federal Government to make a declaration accepting the competence of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights is illegal as it violates Section 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.  
“A declaration that failure or refusal of the Federal Government to make a declaration accepting the competence of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights is illegal and unconstitutional as it violates the applicant’s right to fair hearing guaranteed by Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 7(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.  
“An order directing the Federal Government to make a declaration accepting the competence of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights forthwith.”  

Nigeria, which currently has a representative on the bench of the African court, is among the 30 member states of the African Union that have ratified the protocol establishing the court, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania. But Article 34(6) of the Protocol for the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights requires every member of the African Union to make a declaration accepting the competence of the African Court to receive cases from Non-Governmental Organisations and individuals in the countries.  

Only nine member states, namely, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D’voire, Ghana, Gambia, Mali, Malawi, and Tanzania, have made the declaration recognising the competence of the court. Last week, Nigeria hosted the President and members of the African court sitting in Arusha, but the Federal Government did not commit itself to make the declaration.

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