By Lizzy Okoji
The ECOWAS Court of Justice has dismissed the application of a third-party applicant, representing 6,500 parties seeking inclusion to benefit from a N50 billion consent judgment of the court.
The court had awarded a consent judgement on the matter in 2017, ordering N50 billion as compensation to the victims of remnants of explosives from Nigeria’s three year civil war.
The Court disclosed this in a statement on Friday in Abuja following its ruling on the matter on Feb. 25, read by Justice Dupe Atoki, judge rapporteur.
Atoki said that the Court ruled that the Applicant TP3 provided no evidence to substantiate its claim qualifying all 6,500 applicants under TP3 to partake in the compensation awarded in the consent judgment of the Court.
Atoki said that the Court also ordered all the parties to bear their costs.
According to the statement, the ruling of the court was premised on the provisions of the United Nations Policy on Victim Assistance in Mine Action, 2016 and Article 9 (1) B.
Justice Atoki affirmed: “It is expedient at this point for the Court to state clearly that a third party application is not a carte blanche (French expression for unrestrained freedom) for all comers to seek to be joined in a process that has led to a judgment.
“It is a closed door that can only be opened to parties who must prove a prejudice will emanate from their continuous shut out having established concurrently that they fall within classification of victims in the said judgment.
“Although the Court held it had jurisdiction to hear the suit and declared it admissible, the Court upheld the preliminary objection of the initial Applicants – Vincent Agu & 19 others.
“And the fourth and fifth respondents comprising two companies retained by the government for the demining exercise in the original application – and declared TP3 as lacking locus standi/legal personality to file the application.
“The Court upheld their argument after it observed that TP3 did not establish a right inherent in the consent judgment.
“For it to be joined as party since they did not justify their claims by proving they were directly affected or inflicted with injuries from the mine explosives and remnants of the war.
“However, the Court dismissed their objection that the application was statute barred for lack of evidence,” Atoki said.
According to Atoki, the third party Applicant TP3 comprising Pastor Dan Ekpemsidem & 6,499 allegedly living in communities in Nigeria’s Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa and Benue states filed an application premised on the consent judgment.
She said that in the suit ECW/CCJ/APP/06/12/TP.3, the Applicant had alleged that only selected victims were captured in the consent judgment of the Court.
She said that the Applicant had urged the Court to stay execution of judgment and vary it to include them as beneficiaries of the compensation awarded by the Court.
Atoki further said in a counter argument, that the initial Applicants, Vincent Agu & 19 others in the original application and the fourth and fifth Respondents raised preliminary objections challenging the appropriateness of TP3 before the Court.
She said the initial applicants alleged TP3 were not victims of mine explosives thereby lacking locus standi to file the application and urged the Court to dismiss the suit alleging that TP3 application was equally statute barred.
She said that the Court had awarded N50 billion as compensation to enumerated victims of land mines explosives and other remnants of the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970 as identified in its consent judgment.
Atoki added that the Court also awarded another N33 billion to the fourth and fifth defendants for completion of the demining of the areas affected.
“All Third Party Applicants TP1-11 claimed to be victims of mines and explosives, remnants of Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970, who were excluded from the consent judgment.
“However, the Third Party applications of 10 of the third party applicants – TP1, TP2, TP4 to TP11 excluding TP3, which were earlier consolidated.
“Notified the Court that the terms of settlement has been drafted as agreed by the parties excluding TP3 and presented to the Attorney General of Nigeria,” Atoki said in the ruling.
According to the statement, Counsels to the parties involved in the present terms of settlement urged the Court to deliver a ruling barring the filing of further third party applications concerning this matter pending the adoption of the terms of settlement scheduled by the Court for 9th of March 2021.
Also on the panel were Hon. Justices Edward Amoako Asante (presiding) and Januaria Moreira Costa.