By Friday Olokor
The ECOWAS Court has awarded N60 million damages against the Federal Government of Nigeria to Sunday Ayodeji whose leg was amputated following a gunshot by a police officer in Kaduna State.
The Nigerian government was also ordered by the Court to internally investigate the human rights breach of Ayodeji.
The ECOWAS Court in the judgement delivered on July 10 2023 held the Nigerian government responsible for the torture of the victim.
The case was said to have been handled on a pro-bono basis by an international human rights organisation, Avocats Sans Frontieres France, popularly known as Lawyers without Borders (France) under the European Union and Agence française de Développement funded SAFE Project, which aimed to end human rights violations of torture, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detention in Nigeria.
The Country Director of ASF France in Nigeria, Angela Uwandu Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, in a statement on Tuesday said that Ayodeji’s properties including a car and N900,000 were also confiscated unlawfully by the same officer.
According to her, the torture victim was awarded N60 million with an order for the immediate return of his confiscated possessions.
Uzoma-Iwuchukwu said, “Avocats Sans Frontieres France commends the ECOWAS Court for its judgment on this case and urges the Nigerian Government to uphold the directives of the Court. ASF France is also delighted that this judgment is coming on the heels of the commemoration of the 2023 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which reemphasizes the need for collaborative efforts amongst all stakeholders of the criminal justice system to establish a zero-tolerance culture to torture in Nigeria.
“We are delighted that despite all challenges and legal hurdles faced by our legal team in pursuit of justice in this case, justice was served. We are optimistic that this will serve as a deterrent against the systemic use of torture in Nigeria. The amount awarded by the Court will not restore our client who has been permanently disabled by torture, but it has given hope to not just Ayodeji but other torture survivors that justice is possible even against powerful governments and institutions.
“We believe this symbolic case has contributed to the development of the jurisprudence of the regional court on torture and we continue to stand in solidarity with all victims of torture and reemphasize the fact that torture remains a crime against humanity all over the world.
“It is important to remember that torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and human dignity and it has no place in our world of today. Ending torture is a global challenge, we must all continue to work together to create a zero-tolerance culture to torture in Nigeria.”
Reacting to the Court verdict Ayodeji said, “My joy knows no bounds and I feel fulfilled and relieved from the inner pain that I have carried for so long due to the great injustice done to me which led to the loss of my leg. I am very grateful to Avocats Sans Frontieres France who provided a platform for me to obtain redress. I am also happy for what this judgment means for me and other victims of torture in Nigeria.”