In a significant ruling, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice has found the Nigerian government guilty of violating the rights of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate in October 2020. This landmark verdict, delivered by Justice Koroma Mohamed Sengu, the Judge Rapporteur, marks a major step towards justice and accountability for the victims of the brutal crackdown.

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The court condemned the government’s disproportionate use of force against the unarmed protesters, noting that live rounds were shot into the crowd. The judgment mandates the Nigerian government to pay N2 million in compensation to each victim named in the suit. The court also ordered the government to conduct investigations into the human rights abuses and report back to the court within six months.

The case was brought by a coalition of human rights activists and organizations, alleging severe violations of fundamental human rights by Nigerian security forces. Amnesty International submitted an Amicus Brief, which was declared admissible by the court. After examining the evidence and testimonies, the court concluded that the Nigerian government’s actions breached several international human rights standards, including Articles 1, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The court found credible evidence of disproportionate use of force and violations of the right to liberty and security, assembly, free speech, and dignity. It stated that the use of force was not necessary and contravened the Respondent State’s obligations under the African Charter. The court also agreed that the applicants had suffered torture at the hands of the Nigerian government and that the situation at the Lekki tollgate created a situation of fear.

The government’s actions were deemed inconsistent with Nigeria’s obligations under the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The court held that the quasi-mechanism set up by the government to investigate the allegations of abuse at the Lekki tollgate lacked independence and was questionable.

Reacting to the judgment, Bolaji Gabari, lead counsel for the applicants, described the ruling as a significant victory for the #EndSARS movement, an acknowledgement that citizens’ rights were violated and that abuses occurred at Lekki tollgate. The court’s orders are a call to the Nigerian government to comply fully with the judgment and take immediate steps to address the systemic issues identified.