ECOWAS Court Asks FG To Free Detained Soldier, Orders N5m Compensation

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SAN FRANCISCO, February 02, (THEWILL) -  The Federal Government has been asked to free a soldier, Alimu Akeem, an aide to former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Victor Malu, being detained since 2006.

The Community Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Court), which gave the order after finding  the Federal Government  guilty of unlawful detention of the soldier, also ordered that the soldier be paid a  N5million compensation.

Akeem, who was serving with the 72 Para Battalion, Nigerian Army, Makurdi, Benue State, before his arrest  on November 13, 2006 and subsequent detention, was attached to the late Gen.

Malu as a security aide .
He was detained with four others over alleged missing  riffle at the home of the late COAS  in Gboko, Benue State.

Akeem was thereafter arraigned before the Army Court Martial in Enugu on May 15, 2009   on a two count charge of 'theft of property belonging the Army' and 'vacation of duty post during working hours.

' Despite his plea of innocence on the claim that he was only linked to the missing rifle by virtue of 'an investigation by a native doctor,' the military court convicted him and sentenced him to 18 month on count one and three months  on count two.

However, the judgment of the Court Martial dated September 3, 2009  has not been subjected to the confirmation of the COAS till the ECOWAS court delivered its judgment  on January 28.

The court, in a unanimous judgment by a three-judge panel led by Justice Hansine  Donli, held among others, that 'Animu Akeem was not tried within reasonable time, in violation of Article 7(1)-d of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights.

' The court further held that the duration of Akeem's detention was beyond the duration of the prison term imposed on him, 'and with the decision for the confirmation of the decision not having been made, is arbitrary and unlawful, and constitutes a violation of Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights.

' The court ordered the Federal Government to immediately release the detained soldier and pay him the sum of  N5million 'for the harm done him as a result of the said violations.

' The court also turned down argument by the Federal Ministry of Justice, objecting to its jurisdiction, on the ground that the plaintiff was tried and convicted by a competent court in the country.

The ECOWAS court, in dismissing the Federal Government's objection, held that the case that was brought before it for determination was that of rights violation, by virtue of the plaintiff's claim of wrongful detention, and not the criminal element of the case, which the defence team argued, had been decided by the Nigerian Army's court.

Although the court held that the plaintiff was unable to prove his allegation of torture, it ordered the Federal Government to review its investigative mechanism to conform with international best practices.

The court particularly ordered the Federal Government   to adhere to Article 12 of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The ECOWAS Court also ordered the Federal Government, to within a reasonable time, investigate Akeem's allegation of torture.