Justice Peter Lifu of the Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed hearing for April 3, 2023, in a lawsuit instituted by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) against the Federal Government of Nigeria over the government’s alleged failure to take measures to ensure the safety of journalists.
Media Rights Agenda in the Suit No: FHC/L/CS/912/ 2021 filed on its behalf by freedom of expression lawyer, Ms Obioma Okonkwo, dragged the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to court over the failure of the Nigerian Government to take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners as well as to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of all attacks against journalists and ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.
MRA in the suit is asking the court to determine whether having regard to the fact that the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights is an international treaty as well as a domestic law in Nigeria, having been domesticated by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Nigeria being a State Party to the treaty as well as a member state of the Africa Union; whether the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, developed and adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights pursuant to the African Charter does not have the status of subsidiary legislation in Nigeria with binding legal effect.
MRA by the suit wants the court to determine whether the Declaration with binding legal effect is not applicable and enforceable in Nigeria and whether the Federal Government is not obliged to give effect to, comply with and apply Principle 20 of the Declaration.
When the matter came up on January 30, 2023, MRA was represented by Monday Arunsi but the AGF was not represented. Arunsi brought it to the attention of the court that the parties have exchanged their processes and that he was ready to argue MRA’s case. He furthermore, urged the court to set the suit down for hearing.
After listening to Arunsi’s submission, the court stated that due to the absence of the AGF and lack of legal representation, the matter will be adjourned to another date in the interest of justice and to give the AGF a fair opportunity to be heard.
Arunsi prayed the court for a hearing date for parties to adopt their respective processes and the court adjourned the suit to April 3, 2023 for hearing.
The Court ordered that a hearing notice should be issued and served on the AGF before the next adjourned date.