For not giving her access to justice, the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice has ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria to pay a victim of domestic violence, Mary Sunday, the sum of N50 million as damages.
Domestic violence was inflicted on her by her fiancé, Isaac Gbanwuan, in August 2012 in Lagos following a heated argument.
Her fiancé, a Nigerian Police Officer, who brutally beat her up, reportedly picked up a boiling pot of stew and poured it on her.
Consequently, Mary Sunday, from Akwa Ibom State, suffered extreme burns, lost her ears, and has not been able work or walk freely on the streets, as a result of the burns on her body which has resulted in deformation and incapacitation.
The Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre and its Gambian partner, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, went to the ECOWAS Court in August 2005 on her behalf.
In the case with suit No. ECW/CCJ/APP/26/15 WARDC & IHRDA (on behalf of Mary Sunday) vs Federal Republic of Nigeria, the complainants alleged that Nigerian government failed to effectively investigate the incident, prosecute and punish the perpetrator of the violations.
It was even alleged that the man who perpetrated the crime was using his influence in the police to cover up his tracks and walked freely on the streets.
He has moved on with another woman and they have since married.
But delivering its verdict on Thursday, May 17 2018 in Abuja, the three-man panel led byJustice Wilkins Wright (Presiding Judge), the ECOWAS Court found Nigeria guilty of violating Mary’s right to access to justice, and right to have her case heard.
The Court however exonerated Nigeria saying it did not violate her right to freedom from discrimination and gender-based violence.
The ECOWAS Court therefore ordered Nigeria to pay Mary Sunday financial reparation amounting to N50 million (about $138,000 US).
The judgment was upheld by two other judges, Justice Jerome Traore and Justice Alioune Sall.
In her emotion-laden response to the verdict, following the pronouncement, Mary Sunday said, “I have suffered so much pain since the incident happened, and had never known I will get justice someday. I don’t know how to thank the lawyers who took it upon themselves to give me hope and assist me in seeking justice.”
The Executive Directors of WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi and her IHRDA counterpart, Gaye Sowe, commended the decision of the ECOWAS Court which they describe as “a progressive and important jurisprudence for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Nigeria, the West Africa sub-region and Africa as a whole.”