A legal offensive has been initiated against the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) led by President Muhammadu Buhari, over “the failure to protect the rights to life, security, and dignity of the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, and the failure to secure the safe release of those held captive by the terrorists.”
The suit was filed by a Lagos-based rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
It would be recalled that terrorists had on March 28 attacked the AK9 Abuja–Kaduna train, killing at least nine people, wounding several others, and abducting an unknown number of passengers.
The victims have remained with the terrorists for a month, despite repeated appeals for the government to free them from captivity.
The suit followed reports that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) failed to approve funds for surveillance equipment that could have helped to prevent the train attack.
In the suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/20/22 filed last week before the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, SERAP is seeking “a declaration that the train attack, abductions and killings of passengers by terrorists amount to a failure by the government to protect Nigerians, and to prevent these grave human rights violations.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order directing the Buhari government to protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of Nigerians, including travellers across the country, by ensuring adequate security and taking measures to prevent attacks.”
SERAP is seeking “an order directing the Buhari government to urgently find and identify all the passengers, victims and their families, and to pay adequate monetary compensation of N50 million to each of the passengers and victims and their families.”
In the suit filed together with an application for an expedited hearing, SERAP is arguing that “The Buhari government has a legal duty to protect individuals from real and immediate risks to their lives and security caused by actions of third-parties such as terrorists.”
SERAP is also arguing that “A fundamental notion of contemporary human rights law is that victims of violations such as the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack enjoy an independent right to effective remedies. Rights without remedies are ineffectual, rendering illusory the government’s duty to protect such rights.”
According to SERAP, “The Buhari government has failed to protect the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed rights of the victims of the train attack to life, dignity and security, and their right to an effective remedy.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi read in part: “The Buhari government is under a legal obligation to protect the life of every citizen in the country.
“Remedies logically should be proportionate to the gravity of the harm or violations caused by the government and its agents or by terrorists or unknown perpetrators.
“Human life has a special value and dignity which requires legal protection. It is the principle of international law, and even a general conception of law, that any breach of an engagement involves an obligation to make reparation.
“The officials of the Buhari government have publicly stated that they knew or had information that an attack on the train was imminent but the government failed and/or neglected to take measures to prevent the train attack.
“The government will still be held accountable for failing or neglecting to guarantee and protect human rights regardless of whether such violations are directly or indirectly attributable to the government or its officials.
“The Buhari government has an obligation to promote and protect the rights to life, security and dignity. This obligation means that the government must create an enabling environment that facilitates the enjoyment of these rights by the people.
“The failure of the Buhari government to protect and guarantee the rights to life, security, liberty and dignity of the passengers and victims of the train attack violates the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
“The Buhari government and the Nigeria Railway Corporation had ignored several warnings in the past to take preventive measures to provide adequate security for the train services, and to suspend late rail services to prevent attack by terrorists and to ensure the security and safety of passengers.
“Few days before the train attack, some terrorists had gained control of and entered the Kaduna airport in a daring attack. The Buhari government failed or refused to take preventive measures to ensure adequate security in the airport and its surrounding, and to prevent the attack on the train.”
SERAP is also asking the ECOWAS Court for the following reliefs:
A DECLARATION that the Abuja-Kaduna train attack amounts to a failure by the government to exercise due diligence to prevent the attacks, abductions and killings, and cannot be justified, and therefore constitutes a serious breach of Nigeria’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A DECLARATION that the failure of the government to exercise due diligence and to take steps to prevent the train attack, abductions and killings by terrorists is unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A DECLARATION that the failure of the government to conduct prompt, impartial, thorough, transparent and effective investigations into the attacks, and to find and hold those responsible to account, is unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations to protect, promote and fulfil human rights.
A DECLARATION that the failure of the government to provide an effective remedy and reparation for the passengers and victims of the train attack is unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights.
A DECLARATION that the failure of the government to provide an environment to secure and protect the human rights to life, dignity and security anywhere in Nigeria is unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations to protect, promote and fulfil human rights.
AN ORDER directing the government to promptly, thoroughly, transparently and effectively investigate the attacks on the train, and to find and bring perpetrators to justice.
AN ORDER directing the government to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of Nigerians, including travellers across the country.
AN ORDER directing the government to provide effective remedies and reparation, including restitution, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition that the Court may deem fit to grant to the victims of the train attack.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the application for expedited hearing, and the substantive suit.
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