A three-judge panel of the ECOWAS Court has ordered 10 of the third party applicants in a proceeding relating to the payment of compensation by the Federal Republic of Nigeria over its management of the remnants of the country’s civil war, to file before its next sitting, the terms of their settlement.
At the resumed hearing of the suit on Monday, November 30, 2020, the ten third party applicants informed the Court, presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante that they have complied with the Court’s earlier order to reach a settlement among the parties.
But during Monday’s sitting, the Court urged the third party applicants to revisit the terms of settlement in the suit, which relate to the remnants of mines and explosives from the war, in order to ensure the outcome was inclusive of the 4th and 5th parties who were excluded from the process.
The Court also fixed 11th February 2021 for judgment in the suit by the third party applicant, (TP3) which had requested the Court to deal separately with their application and also applied for a stay of execution of the 30th October 2017 judgment of the Court in which it adopted the terms of settlement by the 20 applicants in the original suit filed by Vincent Agu and 19 others.
At an earlier hearing presided over by Honourable Justice Dupe Atoki, the judge rapporteur, the Court said it was amenable to settlement while emphasising the need for diligence in the process to avoid wasting its time.
Her Lordship added that the Court adjourned for a period longer than requested by the parties to enable them conclude the settlement and file the terms of settlement in Court before the next adjourned date, failing which the Court will proceed to hear the preliminary objection filed by the Plaintiffs, Vincent Agu and 19 others.
The plaintiffs had filed an application challenging the propriety of the Third Party Applicants’ before the Court. But at hearing of Wednesday, 18th November 2020, they informed the Court of an on-going discussion among the parties that had reached a substantive agreement stage.
In the initial suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/06/12, Vincent Agu and 19 others claimed the violation of their rights by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and five others including the Ministry of Defence, the Minister of Defence, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice as well as the two companies retained by the government to undertake the demining exercise.
In the present suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/06/12 consolidated, ten of the eleven third party claimants sought to be joined as parties to guarantee the adequate and equitable distribution of the benefits of the Court’s Consent Judgment no ECW/CCJ/JUD/14/17 of 30th October 2017.
The Third Party Applicants comprise traditional leaders of all impacted communities, sites and settlements as well as victims of mines and explosives remnants of war in the country’s Rivers, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Ebonyi, Cross River, Abia, Enugu, Anambra and Benue States. In the application which was filed on behalf of themselves and as representatives of the victims and affected communities, the Third Party Applicants are seeking an amendment and variation of the Court’s judgment to reflect their names.
They averred that the first defendant, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has consented to settle the plaintiffs and affected communities but that the suit was to enable the Court order the variation of the mode of payment of compensations beyond the initial plaintiffs so as to include hundreds of other communities impacted and identified in the Court’s judgment.
They added that the persons in whose accounts the monies are to be paid on the basis of the Court’s judgment of October 2017 were unfamiliar persons and were not their representatives.
They equally submitted that the initial applicants approached the Court in secrecy wherein they claimed to be also acting on behalf of the Third Party Applicants, whereas these applicants only heard about the suit in the media after the judgment had been delivered without clarity on the mode of payment.
They are therefore demanding that the monies and compensations be disbursed through the solicitors of all parties including those of the Third Party Applicants, to ensure equity, fairness, transparency, probity and justice for all affected victims and communities.
On the reconstituted panel for the case were Honourable Justices Edward Amoako Asante (presiding), Dupe Atoki (judge rapporteur) and Januaria Moreira Costa. Justice Asante replaces Justice Keikura Bangura who was absent.