The Nigerian Army and its Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai have asked the ECOWAS Court to strikeout their names from the suit filed by the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO) and some Benue State indigenes against the Federal Government of Nigeria and 11 (eleven) other Defendants to protest incessant attacks on their communities by Fulani Herdsmen and failure of the Federal Government to protect them from the said attacks.
In a Notice of preliminary objection filed on the 11th day of May, 2016 by Lt. Gen. Buratai in his personal capacity and the office of the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Buratai argued that he and his office are individuals and not a member state of ECOWAS and thus only the Federal Government of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari can be sued at the ECOWAS Court in the complaints against incessant Fulani Herdsmen attacks on Benue communities. They referred the court to its previous decision in the case of SERAP Vs. FRN and others where the court heard that a corporate entity such as a registered company and a political party such as PDP cannot be brought before international courts because companies are not parties to the treaties that international courts enforce and that the only alternative is to sue companies before domestic courts. They thus urged the court to strike out their name from the suit.
When contacted counsel to the Plaintiffs Mr. Terence Vembe said that he is yet to receive a copy of the objection and that when he reads it he will file appropriate reactions in court. He further said, “but if their complaint is what you just told me, let me quickly tell you that: In international law, A State is responsible for violations of international humanitarian law attributable to it, including: violations committed by its organs, including its armed forces. It is a long-standing rule of customary international law, set forth in Article 3 of the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) and repeated in Article 91 of Additional Protocol I, that a State is responsible for all acts committed by persons forming
part of its armed forces”.
He further stated that: The application of this general rule of attribution of responsibility to international humanitarian law is reflected in the four Geneva Conventions, which specify that State responsibility exists in addition to the requirement to prosecute individuals for grave breaches. The principle that State responsibility exists in addition to individual criminal responsibility is also reaffirmed in the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property. He said, A number of military manuals specify that a State is responsible for violations of international humanitarian law. Some of these manuals expressly refer to acts committed by members of the armed forces of a State, while others more generally deal with responsibility for grave breaches or war crimes, not specifying by whom such acts must be committed in order to be attributable to the State.
However, he stated, it is clear from the above-mentioned general principle of international law that the acts of all State organs are attributable to the State, be they military or civilian. Thus he concluded that as far as this case is concerned General Buratai and the Chief of Army staff and the Federal Repubic of Nigeria are one and the same person.
It would be recalled that 11 (eleven) Indigenes of Benue State co-ordinated by a group known as Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO) filed a suit on Tuesday 12th April, 2016 at the ECOWAS Court against the Federal Government of Nigeria to protest incessant attacks on their communities by Fulani Herdsmen and failure of the Federal Government to protect them from the said attacks. The Plaintiffs claimed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has carried out a sustained violation of their sundry Human Rights as enshrined in Articles 3 4, 6, 16, 23, 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
They are among other things asking the Court to order President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Republic of Nigeria to set up forth with a high powered Investigative Panel to enquire into the atrocities committed by Fulani Herdsmen against Benue communities over the years particularly this year and implement its findings forthwith. They are also asking the court to order the Defendants to pay to them and the affected communities in Benue State the sum of One Trillion Naira only being compensation in the sum of N500 Billion (Five Hundred Billion Naira) only and damages in the sum of N500 Billion (Five Hundred Billion Naira) only on the footing of exemplary and aggravated damages for unlawful violation of their rights, the Defendants’ actions being negligent, oppressive, arbitrary, capricious, and for Injuring their dignity and pride and for causing them great physical and psychological trauma.The Plaintiffs in the suit are: Rev. Fr. Solomon Mfa, Rev. Erdward Dooga, Dr. Sam Abah, Dr. David Iordaah, Hon. Ochepo yakubu, Hon. Terese Tange, Favour Adah-Paul, Samuel Msonter Ijoho, Iorbee Bajah, Ashi Bajah, Terseer Iorbee Bajah, Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO).
Joined in the suit as Defendants are: Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) (in his personal capacity), Inspector General of Police, Nigeria Police Force, IGP Solomon Arase (in his personal capacity), Chief of Army Staff, Nigerian Army, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai (in his personal capacity) as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Defendants respectively.
No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.