ECOWAS Court to deliver judgment on suit filed by Adamawa communities over herdsmen attacks
The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja has fixed Friday for judgment on a suit bordering on alleged Fulani herdsmen attacks on seven Adamawa State communities in 2017, a statement from the court’s information unit stated Thursday.
Members of the communities who filed the suit told the court they suffered herdsmen attack which was followed by bombardment from jets and a helicopter gunship of the Nigerian Air Force between November and December 2017.
This, according to them, led to the death of 105 persons, injury to 80 others and the destruction of property valued at over N1billion.
The seven affected communities are Dong, Lawaru, Shaforon, Baya, Kodomti, Nzoruwe, Pullum, of Numan and Demsa local government areas of Adamawa State.
Fourteen representatives of the communities who filed the suit recalled how the incident first happened in November 2017 and resurfaced about a month later.
They said following skirmishes between the herdsmen and indigenous farmers in the communities leading to fatalities on both sides in November 2017, herdsmen from the neighbouring states and West African countries flocked into a nearby village to attack the farmers.
According to them, despite alerting the security agencies, “nothing was done to avert the subsequent mayhem” in which 105 persons were said to have been killed, 80 others injured and property valued at N1,023,709,250 destroyed.
They told the court that the Nigerian army, navy and the State Security Service (SSS) were alerted about the invasion and they initially took steps to intercept and disperse the attackers.
They said in the initial response to the alert, some soldiers and 300 policemen were deployed in the area, but that they withdrew on December 2, 2017, a day after six of the policemen and one civilian, were allegedly killed by the herdsmen.
The plaintiffs, Lawrence Jockthan and 13 others, further alleged that the few soldiers deployed in the area also withdrew after they were allegedly threatened by the herdsmen. But they added the Nigerian Air Force “continued to maintain surveillance over the fully armed and combat ready herdsmen”.
On December 4, 2017, they recalled, the herdsmen having allegedly gathered all their men and materials attacked their villages of Dong, Lawaru, Shaforon, Baya, Kodomti, Nzoruwe, Pullum, of Numan and Demsa local government areas of Adamawa State during which many of the farmers were killed, houses razed and livestock stolen while their vehicles and other machinery were torched.
They further claimed that at about 5p.m. that day, “a Nigerian Air Force helicopter gunship flew over the area and opened fire on any gathering of people which added to the number of casualties”.
They said the bombs dropped by the Air Force destroyed many of their buildings while many people were killed resulting in the invitation of the Police Bomb Disposal Squad to detonate the unexploded bombs.
They alleged further that the defendant, the Nigerian government, “did not protect them against the attack which led to the avoidable loss of lives and property which amounted to the violation of their rights to life and properties as a result of the defendants failure to perform their obligation under the Charter to guarantee their rights under Articles 1, 4 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights”.
They urged the court to, among others, declare the Nigerian government “is obligated to protect and secure the right to life of members of the plaintiffs’ communities who were gruesomely slaughtered by armed Fulani herdsmen who attacked their villages of Dong, Lawaru, Shafaron, Kodomti, Baya and Nzuruwe on December 4, 2017.”
They also asked the court to declare the Nigerian government “was guilty of gross dereliction of its obligation to protect the right to life of the members of the plaintiffs’ communities when in the face of attacks on Nigerian policemen and attacks on the plaintiffs’ communities, it failed to use force to disperse the Fulani marauders for over one week until they fully mobilised and attacked and killed members of the plaintiffs’ communities of Dong, Lawuru, Shaforon, Kodomti, Baya, Nzoruwe etc.”
The 14 plaintiffs, who sued on behalf of themselves and the communities are: Richard Magomya, Tony A. Mabulti, Simon Edan, Amori Farah, Elias Jerimonth, Jackson E. Gashitufo, Gregory Hunkana, Augustine Elkanah, Isaac Kula, Homnetaka Sabo, Holy Aniya, John Timothy and Humphrey David.
Nigerian government’s defence
But the defendant denied the plaintiffs’ claims, stating that the indigenes ’ communities and the herdsmen had co-habited for a long time and had a history of vendetta between them resulting sometimes in bloodshed and casualties on both sides.
It blamed the crisis that led to the attack of December 4, 2017 on the massacre of 56 Fulani settlers, including women and children in the communities by suspected members of the local militia in retaliation for the alleged killing of a local farmer as reported by the media.
READ ALSO: Adamawa community threatens war with Fulani herdsmen
The defendant claimed that security agencies, especially the police upon receiving information of an imminent violence between the two communities, immediately deployed officers to the area to keep the peace who were attacked leading to the loss of four policemen.
It also blamed the pervasive insecurity in the country, the difficulty in navigating the terrains of the Plaintiffs’ community and the attack on the Police for its difficulty in mobilising enough men to repel the armed attackers which had to call for aerial support from the army.
The defendant denied that the Nigeria Army fighter jet shot at the villagers as reports stated that the community residents had all fled the villages upon the attack and that the villages were occupied by the attackers who were burning down houses and destroying properties in sight.
The case is heard by a panel of three ECOWAS Court judges led by Gberi-be Ouattara with two others – Dupe Atoki and – Keikura Bangura, as members.
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