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ECOWAS Court Fines FG N2m For Lagos Trader’s Trial Rights Violation

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, on Wednesday, ordered the Nigerian government to pay a Lagos trader, Abiodun Ilesanmi the sum of two million naira for violating his rights to a timely and fair trial.

The court held that Nigeria violated the applicant’s fair trial rights, specifically the right to be heard within reasonable time as guaranteed under Article 7 (1)(d) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Ilesanmi, a Lagos-based trader, had dragged the Nigerian government to the court in the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/21/21.

Ilesanmi alleged that his rights to personal liberty, dignity of the human person, presumption of innocence, and right to a fair hearing were violated by agents of the government.

Ilesanmi’s counsel, Abubakar Marshal, claimed agents of the respondent state unlawfully arrested him at his house on 2nd of April, 2021, and also took away some of his documents and money.

He also contended that he was detained in solitary confinement under inhumane and degrading conditions, adding that though he was granted administrative bail, the conditions were stringent and difficult to attain.

The Federal Government, through its lawyer, Mrs Aatikat Rufai, denied the claims of Ilesanmi, stating that he (Ilesanmi) was released on administrative bail on 13th of June, 2021.

Rufai said that Ilesanmi was a major smuggler of a banned commodity and that his arrest, interrogation, and release were carried out in full compliance with the law.

She added that a nationwide strike by staff of the state’s judiciary prevented them from obtaining duly issued search warrants to search nine other shops linked to Ilesanmi.

Reading the judgment, Justice Sengu Koroma held that the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

He noted the intelligence report including evidence of banned commodities recovered from Ilesanmi’s house, and declared his arrest did not contravene the provisions of Article 6 of the African Charter, as claimed.

The court also observed that there was insufficient evidence to support the claims of violation of his rights to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and dismissed the claim.

Koroma dismissed the claims of violation of rights to personal liberty and dignity of the human person on the grounds of lack of sufficient evidence but held that the government violated Ilesanmi’s right to a timely and fair trial.

“Ilesanmi’s right to a fair trial within a reasonable time was violated. The Nigerian government is hereby ordered to pay N2m as compensation to him,”  the court held.

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