The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a suit against Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and the federal government at the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja over the alleged human rights abuse.
SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, in a statement released on Sunday, disclosed that the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/20/20 was filed last Friday.
The group accused Wike of using COVID-19 as “a pretext to step up repression and systematic abuses against the people of Rivers state, including by carrying out mass arbitrary detention, mistreatment, forced evictions, and imposing pervasive controls on daily life.”
“Governor Wike is using executive orders 1 and 6, 2020 as instruments to violate and abuse the rights to liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, to a fair trial, and to property, contrary to Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the group said.
“Ultimately, the Federal Government, being the signatory to ECOWAS treaties and protocols, cannot escape its responsibility to ensure that the human rights guaranteed under human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, are fully and effectively realized throughout Nigeria, including in Rivers state.
“Suing the Federal Government alongside Governor Wike is entirely consistent with article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which provides that a state may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty,” SERAP noted.
The anti-corruption and human rights group is, therefore, seeking an order of injunction to restrain Wike from further using any other executive orders to harass and demolish property of the people of Rivers state.
SERAP is also seeking an order directing Wike and the other defendants to pay adequate monetary compensation to the victims of human rights violations and abuses in the State.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Read below the suit filed on SERAP’s behalf by its solicitors Kolawole Oluwadare, Atinuke Adejuyigbe and Opeyemi Owolabi:
“SERAP contends that several people were arbitrarily arrested and detained in various police stations and isolation centres in Rivers State and without any regard for due process of law.”
“Governor Wike and his agents used, applied and enforced executive orders 1 and 6 to suppress and repress the human rights of the people and business operators, including harassing, arbitrarily arresting, detaining, and torturing anyone found exercising their rights within Rivers State, all in the guise of enforcing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state.”
“The wanton destruction of people’s property, harassment, arrest, and detention of persons exercising their rights to personal liberty and other human rights amount to an affront to the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended) and the country’s international human rights obligations.”
“The executive orders, including executive order 6, by Governor Wike are invalid, illegal and unconstitutional, having not complied with the requirements of due process of law. The order by Governor Wike to demolish any hotel or guest house found operating in Rivers state is ultra vires the penalty stipulated in executive order number 6.”
“Demolition of hotels and guest houses is illegal and unconstitutional, as it runs afoul of the penalty stipulated in the Quarantine Act, which provides only a fine of N200 or imprisonment for a term of six months or both. The demolition is a blatant violation of article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
“Governor Wike, demolition workers and security agents without due process of law demolished Prudent Hotel, Alode in Eleme, and Etemeteh Hotel in Onne on Saturday, May 9, 2020, and flagrantly breached the rights of the owners, employees and occupiers. The demolitions were supervised by Governor Wike in the company of security agents of the Federal Government.”
“SERAP contends that Governor Wike with the complicity or support of the Federal Government of Nigeria carried out these demolitions without giving adequate notice, compensation, alternative hotel or affording the victims legal remedies. Many people have now been deprived of their means of livelihood, employment and shelter, and exposed to other serious human rights violations and abuses.”
SERAP is therefore seeking the following reliefs:
1. A DECLARATION that the actions of the Defendants and their agents in enforcing executive orders 1 and 6 to harass, arbitrarily arrest, detain and demolish property of the people of Rivers state violate the human rights guaranteed under Articles 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 14 and 15 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right, and relevant provisions of other human rights to which Nigeria is a state party;
2. A DECLARATION that the provisions of executive orders 1 and 6 are inconsistent and incompatible with the rights to personal liberty, fair trials, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, employment and to property, guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right to which Nigeria is a state party;
3. AN ORDER of injunction stopping and restraining the Defendants and their agents from further implementing and using the provisions of the executive order 1 and 6 or any other executive orders whatsoever to violate and abuse the rights of the people of Rivers state guaranteed under international human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party;
4. AN ORDER directing the Defendants to immediately repeal and/or amend the executive orders 1 and 6 and any other executive orders in line with Nigeria’s obligations under international human rights treaties to which the country is a state party;
5. AN ORDER directing the Defendants and their agents individually and/or collectively to respect, protect, promote, and ensure the human rights of the people of Rivers state during and after the COVID-19 pandemic;
6. AN ORDER directing the Defendants and/or their agents individually and/or collectively to pay adequate monetary compensation to the victims of human rights violations and abuses by the Defendants, and to provide other forms of reparation, which may take the form of restitution, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition, and other forms of reparation that the Honourable Court may deem fit to grant;
7. SUCH FURTHER orders the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.