The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja has ordered the federal government to pay N10m compensation to two former death row inmates for the inhumane and degrading treatment meted to them in detention.
The information unit of the court disclosed in a statement that 88-year-old Abu Dennis Uluebeka, and 48-year-old Mary Bahago, were on death row for 15 and 20 years respectively.
According to the statement, Bahago’s death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment as from October 27, and she has since been remanded at Suleja Prison, Niger State. But Uluebeka, who was formerly at Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Lagos, has since been released from custody.
Delivering the three-man panel’s judgment, the judge rapporteur, Justice Januaria Costa, held that the plaintiffs’’ rights to protection from torture and inhuman treatment were violated in prison.
The panel however ruled that the claim that they had no access to needed medical care and treatment while in detention was unsubstantiated.
In awarding the N10m compensation to them, the court held that their prolonged detention while awaiting execution where they claimed to have experienced “constant anguish, fear, physical and mental suffering reached the level of severity that constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by the African Charter”.
The plaintiffs claimed that they were convicted for murder and sentenced to death by hanging but while awaiting execution, they were detained in inhuman conditions and subjected to torture.
They also alleged that they were denied satisfactory legal representation during the trial and that they had exhausted all their chances and opportunity of appeal.
The Nigerian government had through its lawyer, Unyime Ebuk, urged the court to strike out the suit for lack of coherence in the prayers sought, adding that claims could not be substantiated.