By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

The Community Court of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) has ordered the Nigerian government to pay a soldier – Private Barnabas Eli – N10 million as compensation for the violation of his right to work.

This followed his dismissal from the Army for allegedly losing his rifle in 2012.

Eli was sentenced to two years imprisonment by a court martial without the confirming authority.

The ECOWAS Court also ordered Nigeria to pay Eli the arrears of his salary and other entitlements from March 2015 to the date of his release from detention.

In a default judgment delivered on October 11, 2019, under Article 90(4) of its Rules, the court held that it was mandatory that decisions of a court martial are subjected to the confirmation by the Confirming Authority.

According to the court’s spokesperson Elohor Ovadje, the default judgment was pursuant to a motion filed by Eli on October 10, last year.

A three-man panel of the court, led by Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara, also held that the Nigerian government violated Eli’s right to be heard within a reasonable time.

On whether the decision of the court martial required confirmation by the appropriate authority before enforcement, the court relied on the provisions of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20.

This stipulates the punishment for the loss of public or service property but requires that the decision of such a court martial must be transmitted to a confirming authority for the confirmation of the finding and sentence.

The court held that although the arrest, detention and trial of the applicant were validly done, the conviction not having been confirmed is ‘null and void’.

It also found “that the detention in prison of the applicant was arbitrary and consequently a violation of his rights to liberty, contrary to Section 6 of the African Charter”.

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