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SERAP drags FG to ECOWAS Court over plight of IDPs in Nigeria

Registered Trustees of the Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP) have dragged the Federal Government to the ECOWAS Community Court in Abuja over what they described as the ‘immense suffering of Internally Displaced Persons across the country.’

Joined as defendant is the Attorney General of the Federation, Muhammed Adoke.

In the suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/15/15 and filed last week by Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana, SAN, the Plaintiff alleged “serious violations by the Defendants of the human rights of Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs’) to life, to health, to adequate housing, to personal integrity, to privacy, to fair trial, to freedom of movement and residence, to judicial guarantees, to private property and child rights guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa; and Principles 1-30 of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.”

The suit reads in part:

“The response by the Nigerian government to the conditions of IDPs is fragmented and inadequate, as illustrated by Defendants’ closure of several displacement camps in central and northern areas of Nigeria. Those living in camps are often left without enough food, essential household items or health facilities.”

“The increased vulnerability of IDPs across Nigeria demands accountability and greater level of respect for the full and effective realization and enjoyment of IDPs rights in Nigeria. The ‘crisis of security’ created by forced internal displacement leaves IDPs unprotected, with women and children disproportionately affected. This condition of special vulnerability creates an obligation for the Nigerian government to adopt positive measures to ensure protection and security for IDPs, even when the displacement is caused by the actions of third parties.”

“The Nigerian government has continued to fail and/or neglected to respect, protect, fulfil and promote the human rights of IDPs by among others failing to meet their protection and assistance needs, including social and work relations, and their family dynamics, to provide health facilities to meet their physical and mental health needs. The Nigerian government has also failed to systematically assess the conditions and situation of the IDPs across the country. In other words, the Nigerian government has failed to exercise due diligence and to act proactively to assist IDPs, many of whom do not have a home to go back to.”

“The Plaintiff contends that the origins, complexity and manifestations of the IDP crisis in Nigeria need to be placed within the context of a larger human rights problem in the country.”

“The human rights challenges posed by internal displacement in Nigeria shows that the Nigerian government is failing to meet its clear obligations and commitments under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international instruments highlighted above.”

“The Plaintiff contends that the right not to be forcibly displaced is a key component of the right to freedom of movement and residence. The Plaintiff also argues that the vulnerable condition of IDPs is a violation of the right to personal integrity. The Plaintiff contends that internal displacement entails massive, systematic and prolonged violations of several human rights, thus preventing IDPs from leading a ‘dignified life’. This is an expanded interpretation of the ‘right to life’, thereby broadening the nature of protection from mere relatives.”

“It is hereby submitted that under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory, the Defendants have individually and collectively violated the human rights of IDPs to life, to health, to adequate housing, to personal integrity, to privacy, to fair trial, to freedom of movement and residence, to judicial guarantees, to private property and child rights.”

“The Plaintiff contends that the grave deterioration of the vulnerability of the living conditions of the over 3 million IDPs across the country, and the persistence of the impunity of those responsible for the violations of the human rights of IDPs amount to serious breaches of the obligations and commitments of the Nigerian government under international law.”

“The Plaintiff contends that freedom of movement and residence is an essential condition for the free development of a person and consists, inter alia, of the right of those who are legally within a State to move freely within this State and choose their place of residence.”

“The Plaintiff contends that owing to the circumstances that surround internal displacement, the over 3 million IDPs across the county who are obliged suddenly to abandon their place of residence and their usual economic activities, being forced to migrate to another place within national territory to escape from the violence caused by the armed conflict and the systematic disregard for human rights or international humanitarian law, are exposed to a much higher level of vulnerability, which entails a grave, massive and systematic violation of their fundamental rights and, thus, merits that the Defendants should grant them special care and attention.”

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