By Samuel Osho
The verdict delivered by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the matter of the violation which occurred on October 12, 2009 at Bundu community in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has shown that persistence laced with patience can give birth to justice and freedom.
The plaintiffs who were occupants of Bundu community were victims of human rights abuses as the court agreed that they were forcefully and illegally evicted from their homes and landed property by the government.
It was all smiles for the plaintiffs as the ECOWAS Court ordered the Nigerian government to pay seventy thousand dollars ($70,000) in damages for the infringement of plaintiffs’ fundamental rights in the case bearing suit Number – ECW/CCJ/APP/10/10.
While reacting to the new development, a prominent human rights activist, Celestine Akpobari of the Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), stated that: “This judgement is justice for the people of Bundu Community and it would serve as an inspiration for inhabitants of other waterfront communities who have suffered a similar fate, some of whom have courageously gone before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to seek justice for the human rights infractions they suffered”.
It would be recalled that a conglomeration of NGOs, amongst which was the Social Action, filed petitions at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in respect of the “illegal demolitions and evictions” which took place in some Ogoni communities as well as Abonnema Wharf, Agip (Eagle Island) and Njemanze waterfront communities, and the hearing of the respective petitions which are still pending before the Commission, commenced on May 19, 2014.
Residents say that the recent spate of extra-judicial killings in the waterfront communities is getting unbearable. In Ogoniland, the clan of late human rights activist, Ken Saro Wiwa, two young men Goteh Keenam and John Eenee Dambani were killed by policemen at Zor Sogho Community during a peaceful protest to “stop the Rivers State government from forcefully stripping Ogoni people of their ancestral land.”
According to Social Action, over 30 persons have been killed on account of the land-grabbing crisis in Ogoni communities and the Nigerian security operatives have failed to investigate the killings. The NGO claims that the Rivers State Attorney-General and the Police Command failed to prosecute those who were responsible for the extra-judicial killings of the peaceful and unarmed protesters.