ECOWAS court orders FG to pay soldier dismissed for losing rifle N10m
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice has ordered Nigeria to pay a soldier, Barnabas Eli, N10 million as compensation for the violation of his right to work, following his dismissal from the army for the loss of his rifle in 2012.
The court also ordered the government to pay Eli the arrears of his salary and other entitlements from March 2015 till the date of his release from detention.
Delivering a default judgement under Article 90(4) of the Rules of the Court following a motion filed by the applicant on October 10, 2018, the court also held the Federal Government in violation of the applicant’s right to be heard within a reasonable time.
In determining whether the decision of the court martial required confirmation by the appropriate authority before enforcement, the court relied on the provisions of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20, which stipulated the punishment for the loss of public or service property, but required that the decision of such a court martial must be transmitted to a confirming authority for the confirmation of the finding and sentence.
A court martial had sentenced Eli, an army private, to two years without recourse to the confirming authority.
The court held that although the arrest, detention and trial of the applicant were validly done, the conviction, not having been confirmed, was null and void.
Consequently, the court found in its judgement “that the detention in prison of the applicant was arbitrary and a violation of his rights to liberty, contrary to Section 6 of the African Charter.”
However, it rejected the applicant’s request to hold the government in violation his right to equality before the law; equal protection before the law; right to non-discrimination; right to life and to protection from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as punishment, on the ground that no evidence supported the claims.
In the suit the applicant averred that in 2012, in the course of his official duty, a rifle belonging to the army was stolen at his duty post in Sector 7, Riyom in Plateau State.
He approached the court to rule that his arrest, detention, trial, conviction and subsequent dismissal was illegal, ultra vires, null and void, as it contravened the provisions of Article 6 of the African Charter and other human rights instruments.
The Federal Government did not put up a defence in rebuttal to the claims of the applicant.
On the panel of the court for the case were Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara, (presiding), Dupe Atoki and Januaria Costa.
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