Lawyer to appeal against judgment dismissing appeal on alleged extra-judicial killings

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By Taiye Agbaje

An Abuja-based human rights and constitutional lawyer, Emmanuel Ekpenyong on Wednesday, said he would appeal a judgment of the Court of Appeal, which dismissed his case against the Federal Government on alleged prevalence of extra-judicial killings in the country.

The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja had upheld a lower court’s judgment that dismissed his suit seeking to address the increasing cases of extra-judicial killings by the law enforcement agencies and non-state actors.

But Ekpenyong of the law firm of Fred-Young & Evans LP, in a chat with newsmen, said he would seek redress at the Supreme Court.

The three-member Justices, chaired by Justice Joseph Oyewole, unanimously held that the appellant, Mr Ekpenyong, lacked requisite locus standi (legal right) to file the appeal.

The appellate court held that the surviving paragraphs of the lawyer’s originating summons fails to disclose a reasonable cause of action as to vest him with the requisite locus standi.

“While the courts have a duty to ensure that genuinely aggrieved citizens are not shut out, this does not entail entertaining hypothetical and academic issues as contained in the appellant’s originating summons.

“The power conferred on the courts by Section 6(6) of the constitution must be deployed to resolving real disputes and attending to genuine grievances.

“It does not extend to the consideration of academic and hypothetical questions and issues,” Justice Oyewole, in the lead judgment, said.

On whether the cost of N100,000 awarded against the appellant by the lower court was excessive and meant to punish him for daring to apply to the court for interpretation of the extent of his fundamental right, the appellate court resolved the two issues against Ekpenyong.

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Justice Oyewole held that costs are awarded at the discretion of the court which discretion must be exercised judicially and judiciously.

According to him, where the exercise of discretion was lawfully made, an appellate court cannot interfere.

He agreed with the respondents that the award of cost by the lower court was not punitive, arbitrary or in any manner unlawful.

“Costs follow events and a public interest action found to be fabulous cannot escape the payment of costs simply on account of being a public interest action.

“I therefore see no basis to interfere with the award of costs made in this instance and I also resolve this issue in favour of the respondents and against the appellant.

“In totality, this appeal lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed.

“Cost of N250,000.00 is awarded in favour of the respondents and against the appellant,” Justice Oyewole declared.

Although the judgement was delivered on March 27, 2024, its certified true copy was made available to newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

Other members of the panel include Justices Abba Mohammed and Peter Obiorah.

It would be recalled that Ekpenyong, a Nigerian citizen and legal practitioner, had appealed against a judgment delivered on May 6, 2022, by Justice Nkeonye Maha of a Federal High Court, Abuja.

In the appeal number: CA/ABJ/1200/2022, the lawyer listed the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st and 2nd respondents.

The appellant prayed the Appeal Court to allow the appeal and set aside the whole judgement.

Justice Maha, who earlier dismissed the suit, held that Ekpenyong failed to present sufficient facts in proof of the case.

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She, therefore, dismissed it for lack of reasonable cause of action against the defendants (President and AGF) and awarded a cost of N100, 000.00 against the plaintiff.

In the suit, Ekpenyong alleged that the wanton loss of human lives in Nigeria in recent times has put him as a “person” described under Section 33 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution in reasonable apprehension that his right to life under Section 33 (1), Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution is likely to be contravened.

In the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/755/2020 dated and filed July 10, 2020, the plaintiff submitted six questions for determination.

Ekpenyong urged the court to determine whether his right to life enshrined in Section 33 (1) of Nigerian Constitution “means the protection of the plaintiff’s life beyond mere physical and animal existence and extends to the right to live a meaningful, complete and dignified life?

“Whether the plaintiff’s right to life enshrined in Section 33 (1) of the 1999 Constitution prohibits any unlawful acts of omission or commission by the Nigerian state, Nigerian police, other law enforcement agents and private individuals which are capable of terminating the plaintiff’s life?

He then sought an order of mandatory Injunction compelling the defendants to take immediate steps to overhaul and reform the Nigerian police and other law enforcement agencies to incorporate forensic science in their criminal investigations to address extra-judicial killings by both state and non-state actors.

He said this would also help to ensure that every unlawful death committed are thoroughly investigated and the culprit arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction, among other reliefs.(NAN)(wwww.nannews.ng)

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edited by Sadiya Hamza

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