Nigerian lawyer seeks recognition for African court on human rights

Femi Falana
Femi Falana [Photo credits: Newsbreakers]

A Nigerian lawyer, Femi Falana, has filed a suit seeking an order directing the Nigerian government to recognise the competence of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights to handle cases presented by Nigerians.

In the suit filed on Friday before the Federal High Court in Abuja and marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/356/2019, Mr Falana noted that Nigeria is among the African nations whose citizens cannot access the court.

This, he said, is because such countries are yet to make the needed ‘declaration’ accepting the continental court’s competence to receive cases from them.

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’Ivoire, Ghana, Gambia, Mali, Malawi, and Tanzania, have made the declaration.

An affidavit filed in support of Mr Falana’s suit challenging the Nigerian government’s refusal to make the declaration to the benefit of Nigerians, stated in part, “Nigerian citizens whose human rights are violated in Nigeria and other African countries are unable to seek redress in the African Court due to the refusal of the Federal Government to accept the competence of the Court by making the declaration pursuant to article 34 (6) of the Protocol.

“On December 1, 2011, the Federal Government assured the President and Judges of the African Court that it would make the declaration accepting the competence to enable individuals and non-governmental organisations to access the African Court. Attached and Marked Exhibit 1 is a copy of the publication of the statement of the Vice President dated December 2, 2011.

“In spite of the said assurance, the Federal Government has failed to make the declaration accepting the competence of the African Court.”

Mr Falana said he had requested the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to make the declaration to enable Nigerians to access the African court.

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He stated that the AGF, “acknowledged the receipt of the letter but has refused to make the declaration.”

“From time to time, our law office is inundated with complaints from Nigerians who are brutalised in some African countries,” he added.

Mr Falana, through his lawyer, Funmi Falana, therefore, urged the Federal High Court to declare that “the failure or refusal of the Federal Government to make a declaration accepting the competence of the court 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.”

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