ECOWAS Court Awards 50 Naira Against NJC For Breaching Fundamental Rights Of FCT Judge
Posted: 15/Jul/2020

The ECOWAS Court has awarded 50 (fifty naira) as nominal damage to a former judge of the high court of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory for the violation of his right to fair hearing while undergoing disciplinary investigation for judicial misconduct by the country’s National Judicial Council, the body responsible for the supervision of judicial officers.

Delivering judgment in the suit brought by Justice S.E. Aladetoyinbo, a panel of three judges of the Court agreed with the plaintiff that the composition of the committee that conducted the disciplinary investigation was irregular, thus incompetent and its decision being null and void as it violates the Applicant’s right to fair hearing.

The panel presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante said that while it acknowledged that the right of Justice Aladetoyinbo to fair hearing was violated, the plaintiff could not provide evidence of the prejudice suffered but decided to make the historic award in recognition of the violation.
 
“Where an applicant has established a violation of his/her rights but fails to prove that the ensuing prejudice or harm/injury, the Court will award only nominal damages which is usually a symbolic token to recognize violation of the said right,” the Court said in the judgment read by the judge rapporteur for the case, Justice Dupe Atoki.

However, the Court declined the plaintiff’s request for an order for the defendant, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to issue an apology to the Applicant through the NJC while other reliefs sought in numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were refused on the grounds that they are ‘outside the competence of the Court as making the orders will amount to sitting on appeal over the decision of the NJC.”

The Court had dismissed the defendant’s preliminary objection challenging its jurisdiction and directed the Chief Registrar to assess other costs due.

In suit nos ECW/CCJ/APP/27/18 filed before the Court on 14 June 2018 by plaintiff’s counsel, Mr K.C. Muoemeka, the plaintiff claimed that his fundamental rights were violated as a result of a letter of warning issued to him by the NJC and published with distortions in different media channels.

He alleged that following a judgment he delivered, the dissatisfied judgment debtor wrote a petition against him to the NJC, the defendant’s agency responsible for appointment, promotion and discipline of judicial officers, who constituted a committee whose proceedings were marred by irregularities but nevertheless issued him a warning.

The plaintiff added that the actions of the defendant through its agent has traumatised and demoralised him and also destroyed his integrity, respect, honour and good name built over three decades of unblemished service to the defendant.

He sought orders of the Court setting aside the letter of warning, the payment of 855,625,000 Nigerian Naira (eight hundred and fifty-five million, six hundred twenty-five thousand naira) as general damages, another 12,230,750 Naira (twelve million, two hundred and thirty thousand, seven hundred and fifty naira) as cost of litigation as well as a formal apology, among others.

On their part, the defendant’s counsel, Mr. Ibrahim Hassan raised a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the matter and contended that the plaintiff was accorded fair hearing and that the committee was properly constituted.

The defendant exonerated its agency, NJC, of wrongdoing and urged the Court to dismiss the matter.
 
Also on the panel was Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara.