The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has ordered the Federal Republic of Nigeria to carry out an effective prosecution of one Peter Okoro accused of allegedly raping a then 17-year-old Ekundayo Idris 11 years ago.
The Federal Republic is also under order to mete out the appropriate punishment to the accused in compliance with its domestic law if he is found guilty.
The Court in its judgment read by its President, Hon. Justice Edward Amoako Asante, said it had come “to an irresistible conclusion that, over ten years of prosecution in which the Respondent State is yet to deliver judgment is unreasonable and violates the principle of fair trial and fortiori the right of the Applicant to the right to have her case heard.”
Ekundayo Idris brought the case against the Federal Republic of Nigeria asking for declarations of breaches of her rights and freedoms, and a consequent compensation of twenty-five million Naira for physical and psychological pain, emotional distress, and post-traumatic stress suffered.
She accused the Federal Republic of Nigeria of being “legally responsible for violation of her right to dignity, to a fair hearing, to remedy, freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom from discrimination as guaranteed under the relevant human right instruments, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter).”
In her claims, Ekundayo Idris said she was violently raped by Peter Okoro on 20th August 2011, at Olokonla Area of Lagos State, Nigeria. She was subsequently taken to the Lagos State General Hospital, Ibeju Lekki where she remained on admission for four days while undergoing treatment.
“The medical report by the hospital showed that her vaginal canal was free and open, her hymen broken into and disappeared, and there was mild bleeding.”
According to her, she eventually reported the rape at the Ajiwe Police Station in Ajah, Lagos State, Nigeria, and Peter Okoro was “charged with the offenses of rape and unlawful assault” following police investigations.
The suspected rape perpetrator was arraigned before the Lagos State Magistrate Court, Ajah Division on 8 September 2011 where he pleaded “not guilty” to the charges on the same day.
The victim said she finished her oral testimony in the case by 29th March 2012. However, the trial “suffered various adjournments till date. The Accused person was last present at the Court on 7th January 2013 and has not been produced in court even though he is in prison custody.”
The Prosecution, she said, had not called the other witnesses to enable Peter Okoro to open his defence. She maintained that the trial had stalled, leaving her without a remedy, years after the incident.
The Court held that there was no evidence of direct nexus between the accused, Peter Okoro, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as such, Nigeria could be said to be responsible for the alleged violation of her right of freedom.
The Court also held that the Federal Republic of Nigeria could not be held liable for the alleged violation of the victim’s right to freedom from discrimination arising out of the Government’s failure to conduct effective and speedy trial against the accused person.
In the reasoning of the Court, the victim could not substantiate that the alleged delay in the handling of her case speedily is peculiar to only her compared to other litigants of the same predicament of rape and similar sexual violence cases in the local courts.
The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice also dismissed the victim’s claim that the Respondent is in breach of its obligation to effectively investigate and arrest the perpetrator of the alleged crime of rape against her to provide a remedy in her case. The Court said the allegation had not been proved.
The Court, however, “declines the Applicant’s prayer to award her compensation for the physical and psychological pain, emotional distress and post-traumatic stress and same is dismissed.”
It also ordered each party to bear their respective costs since the parties failed to pray for costs.
Hon. Justice Edward Amoako Asante ——-Presiding/Judge Rapporteur
Hon. Justice Dupe AtokiI ——- Member
Hon. Justice Januaria M. Tavares Costa