The Federal Government of Nigeria has lost the bid to stop the prosecution
of officials linked with the killings and torture of agitators of the
State of Biafra at a United States Court.
The case is pending before the United States District Court for the
District of Columbia against the sixteen Nigerian officials for their
direct or indirect complicity in the extrajudicial killings of IPOB
members/Biafrans who had launched peaceful protests in the wake of arrest
and detention of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
The officials are: Tukur Yusuf Buratai; Lawal Musa Daura; Ibrahim
Attahiru; M.I. Ibrahim; Kasim Umar Sidi; Issah Maigari Abdullahi; Solomon
Arase; Ibrahim Kpotun Idris; Okezie Ikpeazu; Willie Obiano; Habila Hosea;
Peter Nwagbara; James Oshim Nwafor; Hosea Karma; Bassey Abang; and Johnson
In a counter Motion filed on February 6, 2018, the US-based lawyers for
the Biafran plaintiffs who brought suit against some Nigerian officials
strongly urged a United States federal court to proceed to trial on the
merits, stressing the damning fact the the US State Department has
rejected a request from the President Mohammadu Buhari-led Nigerian
government for the State Department to intervene and stop the suit based
on the sovereign immunity defense.
Page 4 of the 35-page Motion obtained by this reporter, Plaintiffs lawyers
stated that “Despite an overture by the Government of Nigeria, the United
States Department of State has refrained from suggesting any Defendant is
immune from Plaintiffs’ TVPA claims under federal common law or otherwise.
Neither has the State Department suggested that any Defendant is a head of
state in Nigeria”.
The counter Motion was necessitated by a motion filed by defence lawyers
to dismiss the suit based on grounds that included the act of state
doctrine, lack of jurisdiction and sovereign immunity.
Dr Bruce Fein and associates, lawyers to the Biafran Plaintiffs argued
in-opposite that such defenses are not allowed under the Statutes upon
which the suit was brought.
Plaintiffs’ counsel also argued that defence Motions are questionable
because the defense lawyers are, before the court, fighting amongst
themselves as to who should be recognized to represent the defendants.
In the counter motion, counsel to Plaintiffs argued, amongst others, that
jurisdiction has vested through service of the summons and complaint by
certified international courier on all defendants.
The Suit is grounded on two muscular United States’ statutes – the Alien
Tort Claims Act (ATCA or ATS – the Alien Tort Statute); and the Torture
Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Both laws have extraterritorial reach,
meaning that they allow US federal courts to assert long-arm jurisdiction
that extends beyond the borders of United States.
Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) provides that ‘the district courts shall have
original jurisdiction on any civil action by an alien (foreigner) for a
civil wrong committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of
the United States’. Since 1980, courts have interpreted this statute to
allow foreign citizens to seek remedies in US courts for human rights
violations for conduct committed outside the United States.
Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 is a statute that permits civil
suits in the United States against foreign individuals who – acting in an
official capacity for any foreign nation – committed torture and/or
In the suit, Plaintiffs lawyers argued that ‘The factual case against the
Defendants is convincing. The world already knows of the widespread
beatings and slaughter of protesting Igbos/IPOB by elements of Nigerian
security forces at various locations after Nnamdi Kanu was arrested.
Amnesty International and other credible foreign sources have confirmed
those killings and torture’. Those reports were filed in Court.
Beyond the latest processes, and at the ensuing trial, Defendants will be
required to personally appear before the US court to testify under oath
and probing cross-examination that will dwell on the details of the IPOB
killings and the complicity of other unnamed Nigerian officials.