Cases In Court
1. SERAP’s case on the right to education before the ECOWAS Court which helped to persuade the Court to declare for the first time that the right to education is a legally enforceable human right. The case is now adjourned for judgment.
2. SERAP death row prisoners’ case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on the basis of which the Commission issued an order stopping the execution of over 800 Nigerians on death row throughout the country.
3. SERAP also obtained provisional measures from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights stopping the execution by Libya of over 200 Nigerians on death row in Libya
4. SERAP anti-media bill case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ resulted in the Commission issuing an order for the Nigerian government not to pass or authorise a proposed legislation, which sought to impose conditions on the operation of the media in Nigeria, including the registration and training of journalists. The proposed bill was consequently withdrawn by the government
5. SERAP crime against humanity case before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which has the prosecutor to investigate proprio motu allegations of unlawful killing of at least 326 people and perpetration of other crimes under international law during the violence in January 2010 in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria; and the reports that the military and police used excessive force against both Christians and Muslims in responding to the violence.
The ICC has now decided to analyse the situation on the basis of SERAP’s petition. In the letter with reference number OTP-CR-58/10, dated 5 November 2010, and signed on behalf of Mr Ocampo by M.P. Dillon, Head of Information and Evidence Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor, the ICC said that, “On behalf of the Prosecutor, I thank you for your communication received on 01/02/2010, as well as any subsequent related information. The Office is analyzing the situation identified in your communication, with the assistance of other related communications and other available information.”
Several other cases remain pending before Nigerian courts and regional human rights mechanisms. They include:
1. SERAP case against (Suit No: FHC/L/CS/281/2008) the Nigerian government; the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, the Minister of Energy (Petroleum, Gas & Power) and the Attorney of the Federation and Minister of Justice challenging the “failure of the government to effectively tackle corruption in the power sector, which has resulted in the theft of $16b meant for the power projects, and the denial of access to reliable and uninterrupted electricity services and other economic and social rights for majority of Nigerians
2. SERAP case (Suit No FHC/L/CS/328/09) against the Nigerian government over the government’s “failure to provide access to safe and affordable water and sanitation services for about 80 million of Nigeria’s estimated 140 million people,” arguing that “clean water is lacking, activities like washing of hands, cleaning of food, brushing of teeth often taken for granted in more organized societies may be disregarded because people are forced to make a choice to ration the little water, if any, that they are able to scoop up.”
3. SERAP case (Suit No FHC/L/CS/89/2010) against the Nigerian government over alleged failure to provide information on the spending of recovered stolen public funds. SERAP said in the case that, “the Respondents have not shown transparency, accountability and openness in the spending of recovered stolen public funds, estimated at N600 billion, by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).”
4. SERAP case (Suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/08/09) at the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja against the Nigerian government and six major oil companies operating in Nigeria over pollution and associated human rights violations in the Niger Delta. Also joined as Defendants in the suit are: Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC); Elf Petroleum Nigeria Ltd; Agip Nigeria PLC; Chevron Oil Nigeria PLC; Total Nigeria PLC; and Exxonmobil Corporation.
SERAP is alleging in the case that “the government of Nigeria and the oil companies are individually and/or collectively responsible for serious violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, to work, to health, to water, to life and human dignity, to a clean and healthy environment; and to economic and social development. The Defendants have failed to effectively address the impact of oil-related pollution and environmental damage on agriculture and fisheries; oil spills and waste materials polluting water used for drinking and other domestic purposes; and to enforce laws and regulations to protect the environment and prevent pollution.”
5. SERAP petitioned the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the Netherlands requesting the Court “to use your position and powers to examine and investigate whether the systemic/grand corruption in Nigeria amounts to a crime against humanity within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and to prevail on the Nigerian government to fulfil its obligations to effectively and fairly investigate and prosecute all allegations of grand corruption since 1985”. Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute and deposited its instrument of ratification on 27 September 2001.
SERAP said in the petition that, “Although almost every government since the Ibrahim Babangida administration in 1985 has promised to raise ethical standards and restore accountability and transparency in governance, massive and systematic looting of the nation’s wealth and resources by high ranking state officials has remained a permanent feature of the country’s political life.
However, while the Babangida administration is known to have institutionalised grand corruption in Nigeria, successive governments have followed the path of that administration and generally have circumvented virtually all mechanisms designed to eradicate a culture of impunity and promote accountability of public officials. As a result, Nigeria has reportedly lost over $200 billion through grand corruption by high ranking government officials since 1985.
The former President Olusegun Obasanjo once admitted that “corruption is the greatest single bane of Nigerian society,” and promised to “implement quickly and decisively, measures that would restore confidence in governance.”
But ongoing startling revelations at the Parliamentary Hearing about the mismanagement of $16 billion budgeted to provide reliable electricity for millions of Nigerians have shown the scale and magnitude of systemic/grand corruption during the Obasanjo administration.
The mismanagement of the $16 billion has resulted in the lack of access to uninterrupted electricity services for millions of Nigerians, and denial of other human rights such as healthcare, adequate housing and quality education. In this context, the intervention of the Prosecutor is particularly important to find a duration solution to the problem.
In the Preamble to the Rome Statute, states parties affirm that ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished and that their effective prosecution must be ensured by taking measures at the national level and by enhancing international co-operation’; must determine ‘to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes’; and recall that ‘it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes’.
The nature and scale of official/grand corruption in Nigeria amounts to an ‘international’ crime – that is, conduct that is in breach of ‘peremptory norms’ and for which universal jurisdiction is appropriate. Systemic/official corruption at the highest level of government has had a catastrophic effect on the lives of millions of Nigerians, akin to crimes against humanity as contemplated under the Rome Statue and within the jurisdiction of the Court.
The Rome Statute in article 7 defines “crime against humanity” as any of the following acts when committed in a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population: murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation or forcible transfer of population; severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of international law; torture; rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization, or any other grave sexual violence; persecution against any identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender or other grounds; enforced disappearance; apartheid; or other similar inhumane acts causing great suffering or injury.
The common denominator of those crimes against humanity is that they are grave affronts to human security and dignity. As demonstrated above, the scale and magnitude of grand corruption in Nigeria creates just these consequences. Crimes against humanity are not only physical violence; rampant corruption holds a comparable gravity, which the Prosecutor should example and investigate.”
SERAP asked the ICC to “Urge the Nigerian government to fulfil its complementary obligations under the Rome Statute of the ICC to investigate fully, effectively, fairly, independently and impartially and bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for massive corruption and crimes against humanity in Nigeria”.
SERAP also asked the ICC to “Urge the Nigerian government to fulfil its obligations under Article 86 of the Rome Statute to co-operate, including complying with your requests to arrest and surrender suspected perpetrators of official and massive corruption, take testimony, provide other evidence and trace, freeze, seize and forfeit stolen assets for reparations to the Nigerian victims; Urge other states to exercise universal jurisdiction over those suspected to be responsible for the systemic/official corruption in Nigeria and the resulting crimes against humanity being committed against the Nigerian people, and; Commence an investigation proprio motu on the allegations of systemic/official corruption by those entrusted with Nigeria’s resources, with a view to determining whether these amount to crimes against humanity within the Court’s jurisdiction.
In this respect, we also urge you to invite representatives of the Nigerian government to provide written or oral testimony at the seat of the Court, so that the Prosecutor is able to conclude on the basis of available information whether there is a reasonable basis for an investigation, and to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization of an investigation.”
6. SERAP dragged the Federal Government to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul over the government’s “complicity and/or failure to exercise due diligence to prevent political corruption in the work and operations of its agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).”
SERAP is arguing that, the alleged failure of the government “has undermined the genuine and effective realization and enjoyment of the right of millions of registered voters to participate in their government during the 2007 elections.
The government also breached its obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption, to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right by failing and/or neglecting to fully and effectively investigate allegations of political corruption and violence, or to bring suspected perpetrators to justice.”