Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2004 - Nigeria

Reports confiscated95

On 14 October 2002, the customs office impounded 2,000 copies of the report published by OMCT and the Centre for Law Enforcement Education, Nigeria (CLEEN), entitled Hope Betrayed? A Report on Impunity and State-Sponsored Violence in Nigeria.

After the report was seized, CLEEN lodged a complaint against the customs services with the Federal High Court in Lagos which heard the case in June 2003. On 10 November 2003, after several adjournments, the CLEEN lawyers were able to submit their arguments. But because of an overburdened schedule, the court interrupted the hearing and postponed it until 26 January 2004.

On that date, the defence asked for the court's indulgence and for the hearing to be adjourned until he could get a certified copy of the legal action. The lawyer for the prosecution was not against this request, but reminded the court that the hearing had been scheduled for that day, and hence asked that the plaintiffs be awarded 5,000 naira (30 euros) as compensation. The judge agreed to adjourn the hearing until 24 March 2004 and awarded 2,000 naira (12 euros) to the plaintiffs.

On 6 October 2004, the Federal High Court of Lagos rendered a judgement in favour of CLEEN and against the Nigerian customs. The court declared that the confiscation and non-distribution of the reports violated "the freedom of expression of the claimants as guaranteed by section 39 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and, thus, were unconstitutional, null and void". The court also stressed that this confiscation was in violation of the claimants' rights in application of section 44 (1) of the Constitution". The Court ordered the Nigerian customs office to pay compensation of five million naira (3,000 euros) and either return the 2,000 copies of the report within seven days, or pay an additional compensation of four million naira (2,400 euros).

At the end of December 2004 the reports had not yet been returned.

95. See Annual Report 2003.


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