Why lawyer’s suit seeking order to compel FG to address increasing extra-judicial killings failed–Appeal Court


The Abuja Division of the Appeal Court has dismissed an appeal by an Abuja-based human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ekpenyong seeking an order to compel the Federal Government to address increasing cases of extrajudicial killings by law enforcement agencies and non-state actors in the country.

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.

Also on the panel that gave the decision were Justices Abba Mohammed and Peter Obiorah.

The appellate court held that the surviving paragraphs of the lawyer’s originating summons failed to disclose a reasonable cause of action that would have vested 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 factual disputes and attending to genuine grievances.

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

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 to interpret the extent of his fundamental right, the appellate court resolved the two issues against Mr Ekpenyong.

Justice Oyewole held that costs were awarded at the court’s discretion, which discretion must be exercised judicially and judiciously. According to him, where the discretion was lawfully exercised, an appellate court cannot interfere.

He agreed with the respondents that the lower court’s award of cost was not punitive, arbitrary, or 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,” the judge declared.

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

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

But Mr Ekpenyong of the Fred-Young & Evans LP law firm told journalists that he would seek redress at the Supreme Court.

Mr Ekpenyong appealed against a judgment delivered by Justice Nkeonye Maha of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on May 6, 2022.

In the appeal number CA/ABJ/1200/2022, the lawyer listed the president and the attorney general of the federation as first and second respondents.

The appellant urged the appellate court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment.

Justice Maha, who earlier dismissed the suit, held that Mr Ekpenyong failed to present sufficient facts to prove the case. She, therefore, dismissed it for lack of reasonable cause of action against the defendants and awarded a cost of N100,000 against the plaintiff.

Mr 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.

He 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 extrajudicial killings by both state and non-state actors.

Mr Ekpenyong said this would also help to ensure that every unlawful death committed is thoroughly investigated and the culprit arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction, among other reliefs.

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