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Plaintiffs urge ECOWAS Court to decline jurisdiction and dismiss case

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The ECOWAS Court of Justice will on 18 November 2020 take the preliminary objection challenging the propriety of allowing a third party to be joined as beneficiaries of a consent judgment of the court.

This relates to a case filed by victims of the remnants of mines related to Nigeria’s civil war that ended in 1970.

The initial suit, ECW/CCJ/APP/06/12, was instituted by Vincent Agu and 19 others against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ministry of Defence, Minister of Defence, R.S.B Holding Nigeria Limited, Deminers Concept Nigeria Limited and the Attorney-General of the Federation.

On the third party applications, the plaintiffs, Vincent Agu and 19 others, are urging the court to decline jurisdiction and dismiss the case, alleging that the third party application is not only statute barred, but that the third party applicants lack the legal personality to approach the court, not being the direct victims of the mine explosions at the centre of the case. They alleged that the third party applicants are, by the application, also seeking the illegal alteration of the consent judgment of the court.

The third party applicants in suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/06/12TP.1-11 (consolidated) are seeking to be joined as parties to guarantee adequate and equitable distribution of the benefits of the Court’s Consent Judgment no ECW/CCJ/JUD/14/17, delivered on 30 October 2017.

The third party applicants comprises traditional leaders of all impacted communities, sites and settlements, as well as victims of mines and explosives remnants of war in Nigeria’s Rivers, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Ebonyi, Cross River, Abia, Enugu, Anambra and Benue States.

In the application, which was filed on behalf of themselves and as representatives of the victims and affected communities, the third party applicants are seeking an amendment and variation of the court’s judgment to reflect their names. The third party applicants averred that the said judgment of the court was based on the consent of the parties through an amicable settlement, of which the terms of settlement were adopted as judgment of the court.

They further averred that the first defendant, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has consented to settle the plaintiffs and affected communities, but that they filed the suit so that the court can order a variation of the mode of payment of compensations beyond the initial plaintiffs. This is so as to include hundreds of communities impacted and identified in the court’s judgment.

They added that the persons in whose accounts the monies are to be paid, on the basis of the court’s judgment of October 2017, were unfamiliar persons and were not their representatives.

They equally submitted that the plaintiffs/defendants approached the court in secrecy, wherein they claimed to be also acting on behalf of the third party applicants, whereas these applicants only heard about the suit in the media after the judgment had been delivered by the court, without clarity on the mode of payment.

They are, therefore, demanding that the monies and compensations be disbursed through the solicitors of all parties, including those of the third party applicants, to ensure equity, fairness, transparency, probity and justice for all affected victims and communities.

On the panel were; Honourable Justices Dupe Atoki (presiding), Keikura Bangura and Januaria Moreira Costa.

-APA

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