Court Sets February 14 for Judgment in Class Action on Failure of Nigerian Government to Prevent Attacks on Journalists, Punish Perpetrators

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Mrs. Mojirayo Nkanga, MRA’s Counsel

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has set February 14, 2024, for judgment in a class action suit instituted by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) against the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) over failure of the Nigerian Government to take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and media practitioners in Nigeria or prosecute the perpetrators of such attacks.

MRA, the Lagos based Non-Governmental and Not-For-Profit organization commenced this legal action through its Abuja based lawyer Mrs. Mojirayo Nkanga, a human rights and free expression lawyer on October 26, 2021. The suit is brought pursuant to Order 2 Rules 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure), Rules 2009, Sections 33 and 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Articles 4 and 9 of African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The suit prayed the court for the following reliefs:
• A declaration that the killing of various journalists and media practitioners in Nigeria is a violation of their fundamental right to life as enshrined in section 33 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. 2004.
• A declaration that the killing of journalists and media practitioners while carrying out their journalistic duty is a violation of their rights to freedom of expression and the press as encapsulated by section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
• A declaration that the failure of the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfil its statutory and treaty obligations to guarantee the safety of journalists and other media practitioners in accordance with the provision of Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, amounts to a violation of the Declaration and a breach of the statutory duty imposed on the Federal Government of Nigeria by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Nigeria’s treaty obligation under the African Charter.
• A declaration that the failure of the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure the safety of journalists and media practitioners who have been attacked as it is required to do by Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa is a breach of the statutory duty imposed by the Declaration and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
• A declaration that the failure of the Federal Government of Nigeria to take measures to prevent various forms of attacks on journalists and other media practitioners, including murder, extra-judicial killing, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearance, kidnapping, intimidation, threats of physical violence, beatings and assault, unlawful surveillance, among others, as required by Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, amounts to a breach of the Government’s statutory duty under the Declaration and African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
• A declaration that failure of the Federal Government of Nigeria to take measures to raise the awareness and build the capacities of journalists and other media practitioners, policy makers and other stakeholders on laws and standards for ensuring the safety of journalists and other media practitioners in accordance with Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa amounts to a breach of its statutory duty under the Declaration and under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
• A declaration that the failure of the Federal Government of Nigeria to take effective legal and other measures to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, as well as the Government’s failure to ensure that the victims of such attacks have access to effective remedies in accordance with Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, is a breach of the Government’s statutory duty under the Declaration and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
• A declaration that by failing to guarantee the safety of journalists and other media practitioners in accordance with Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, the Federal Government of Nigeria has breached its statutory duty under the Declaration and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and therefore, bears responsibility and is accordingly liable for the actions and conduct of law enforcement, security, intelligence, military and other officials and agents that threaten, undermine or violate the rights and safety of journalists and other media practitioners.
• An order directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners.
• An order directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of all attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, and ensure that all victims of attacks against journalists have access to effective remedies.
• An order directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to take measures to raise awareness and build the capacities of various stakeholders, particularly journalists and other media practitioners; policy makers, law enforcement, security, intelligence, military as well as other officials and relevant stakeholders on the laws and standards for ensuring the safety of journalists and media practitioners.

The suit in which the Minister of Justice is the only named respondent came up on November 23, 2023, for hearing. However, there was no representation for the Minister. MRA was represented by its Counsel Mrs. Mojirayo who argued the case and adopted all processes filed on behalf of MRA and the court admitted the documents of the Minister of Justice.

The Court then fixed judgment for February 14, 2024, after the argument and submissions of Mrs. Mojirayo.