The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja on Friday ordered the Nigerian government to pay N10m to two former death row inmates for the inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered in detention.
The information unit of the court stated in a statement that 88-year-old Abu Dennis Uluebeka, and 48-year-old Mary Bahago, were on death row for 15 and 20 years respectively.
According to the statement, Bahago’s death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment as from October 27, and she has since been on remand at Suleja Prison, Niger State.
But Uluebeka, who was formerly at Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Lagos, has since been released from custody.
Delivering the three-man panel’s judgment, the judge rapporteur, Justice Januaria Costa, held that although the plaintiffs’ claim that they had no access to needed medical care and treatment while in detention was not substantiated, it was clear their rights to protection from torture and inhuman treatment were violated in prison.
In awarding the N10m compensation to them, the court held that their prolonged detention while awaiting execution where they claimed to have experienced “constant anguish, fear, physical and mental suffering reached the level of severity that constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by the African Charter”.
The applicants had in their separate suits marked ECW/CCJ/APP/45/18 and ECW/CCJ/APP/42/18 but which were later consolidated into one, alleged that their rights to fair hearing, due process of law and effective remedy while under threat of secret execution, were violated by the Nigerian government.
They noted that they were convicted for murder and sentenced to death by hanging and that while awaiting execution, they were detained in inhuman conditions and subjected to torture.
They also alleged that they were denied satisfactory legal representation during the trial and that they had exhausted all their chances and opportunity of appeal.
The Nigerian government had through its lawyer, Unyime Ebuk, urged the court to strike out the suit for lack of coherence in the prayers sought, adding that claims could not be substantiated.