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Allow Xenophobic Attack Victims To Seek Justice At African Court, Falana Tells FG

In his letter, dated 20 April, Mr. Falana stated that his legal firm regularly receives complaints of alleged maltreatment of Nigerians in many African countries.

Human rights advocate, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the Federal Government to facilitate access to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights Violations in Arusha, Tanzania, by victims of xenophobic attacks and other forms of rights abridgements. Mr. Falana made this request in a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama.

In his letter, dated 20 April, Mr. Falana stated that his legal firm regularly receives complaints of alleged maltreatment of Nigerians in many African countries. Some of the complaints, noted the lawyer, include allegations of murder of law-abiding Nigerians.

“In South Africa, a number of Nigerians have been subjected to xenophobic attacks, which have led to loss of lives and properties on several occasions. In spite of the recent assurance of the Jacob Zuma administration to prevent further xenophobic attacks on the Nigerian people, another citizen was brutally killed on 6 April during a mob attack on foreigners in Polkwane, Limpopo province of South Africa,” stated Mr. Falana.

He noted that the acting Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, Mr. Martin Cobham, gave the name of the murdered Nigerian as Razak Ajao, an auto mechanic, and stated that four others were injured.

While the Nigerian Mission has formally protested to the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs, observed Mr. Falana, the South African Police Service has not arrested the suspected murderers. The human rights advocate equally observed that while the Federal Government has condemned attacks on unarmed Nigerians citizens living in African countries, the survivors of such and families of murdered victims have been unable to seek redress in the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights.

This, he explained, is because the Federal Government has not made a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court.

“Thus, in Femi Falana v. African Union Union (Application No. 019/2015), the African Court by a majority of 7-3 judges struck out the case for want of locus standi on the ground that Nigeria has not deposited a declaration under Article 34 (6) of the Protocol establishing the African Court,” he explained.  

As a result, Mr. Falana called on the Foreign Affairs Minister, in view the Federal Government’s constitutional duty to protect Nigerians everywhere, to facilitate access to the African Court by aggrieved Nigerians. Once the declaration is made and deposited by the Federal Government, he further explained, victims of unprovoked attacks and the Nigerian human rights community will have the locus standi to file cases in the African Court against any country that fails to protect Nigerians. 

“As you are no doubt aware, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sitting in Abuja has continued to provide legal succour to victims of human rights violations which occur in West Africa. Thus, in the case of Ogukwe v Republic of Ghana (Suit No CCW/APP/03/2015), the Court of Justice of ordered the defendant to pay the sum of $250,000 to the plaintiff over the death of his 15-year old son, who got drowned during a school excursion at Tema seashore in Ghana on July 15, 2013,” stated Mr. Falana.

While noting that the defendant was not found directly liable for the death of the 15-year old, it was indicted for neglecting to investigate the killing and prosecute the culprits.

He expressed optimism that the Foreign Affairs Minister will grant the request, saying Section 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act imposes a duty on the Federal Government to adopt legislative or other measures to give the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the African Charter.

However, Mr. Falana warned that if the request is rejected, he would approach the Federal High Court to direct the Federal Government to deposit the declaration at the registry of the African Court in consonance with Article 34 (6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.