The ECOWAS Court of Justice on 22nd January, 2019 dismissed a suit brought by a Nigerian businessman and media executive asking for N10.2 billion naira in compensation from the government of the Republic of Nigeria for the destruction of his television station and newspaper outfit by agents of the government 25 years ago.
In dismissing the matter, a three member panel of the judges of the Court led by the President, Honorable Justice Edward Amoako Asante upheld the government’s contention that the Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit as the matter fell outside its mandate.
In the suit, Mr. King Rich, owner of the CONGRESS INDEPENDENT TELEVISION and CONGRESS NEWSPAPER averred that the invasion and destruction of the two media outfits located on Allen Avenue in Lagos on 13th May 1994 amounted to the gross violation of his fundamental human rights by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Mr. Rich, who was represented by his counsel, Mr. Chijioke Kanu said the action during the regime of the former military ruler, late General Sani Abacha, constituted a gross violation of his fundamental human rights, right to fair hearing, right to property, right to personal liberty, freedom of movement and dignity of the human person.
In particular, he averred that it violated the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.
The plaintiff also averred that the invasion took place in the course of his normal and lawful business, and claimed that the agents ‘completely and irretrievably destroyed both the television station and the newspaper outfits and carted away money and equipment worth about the sum of N20 Billion Naira.’ He also alleged that he was arrested during the invasion, detained and subjected to various kinds of torture by the agents resulting in his being permanently sick.
He said that the Oputa Panel set up by the government in 2000 to hear and determine cases of human violations awarded him compensation in sum of N10.2Billion Naira after confirming the claim against the Defendant which has so far failed to pay the compensation, even after a Federal High Court in Abuja had recommended that the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance take appropriate steps to effect the compensation.
The plaintiff had also asked the Court to order the payment of 10 per cent interest annually on the 10.2 billion from 2002 when the award was made by the Oputa panel.