The Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) have sued the Nigerian government at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice on behalf of a Mary Sunday, who was a victim of domestic assault by a Police Corporal, Isaac Gbanwuan
On the 24th of August 2012, Mary Sunday had an argument with her fiancé, Isaac Gbanwuan, an officer with the Nigerian Police. The argument got heated and Gbanwuan started beating and kicking her. In a bid to escape the beatings, she ran into a neighbour’s kitchen to seek refuge. However, Gbanwuan forced his way into the kitchen, picked up the neighbour’s stove with a boiling pot of stew on it, and poured it all over Mary Sunday’s head and body, consequently setting her on fire. As a result of the attack, Mary Sunday was in a coma for two weeks and later was hospitalised at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos.
WARDC and IHRDA allege that since the attack happened, the Nigerian authorities have not conducted an effective investigation into the circumstances of the attack, and have refused to bring Gbanwuan to justice. The Nigerian Police have shielded him from justice as one of their own, and other agencies including the Federal and Lagos State Ministries of Justice have refused to act to bring Gbanwuan to justice. Till date, Gbanwuan remains a free man while Mary Sunday is still in pains and cannot work or walk freely on the streets, as a result of the burns on her body.
The Plaintiffs allege as a result of the lack of effective investigation and prosecution of the offender, the Nigerian government has violated several rights provided for in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights amongst others. These rights include the right to dignity, right to freedom from torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to a remedy, the right against gender-based discrimination, the right to work and the right to health.
The Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) is a human rights and non-governmental organization (NGO), established for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria. WARDC is based in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) is a pan–African non-governmental organization (NGO) working to promote awareness of human rights in Africa and improve the effectiveness of the African Human Rights system through strategic litigation and capacity building. IHRDA is based in Banjul, The Gambia.
The Plaintiffs believe that a favourable outcome in the case will be beneficial to the many victims of domestic violence, not only in Nigeria, but in the whole of West Africa, and will further ensure that the government strengthens her obligations to protect her citizens, particularly women, from domestic abuse. This is the first case of domestic violence being brought to the ECOWAS Community Court after the state has failed in its duties to prosecute offenders.
Nigeria has ratified key human rights instruments that promote and protect women’s human rights and as such is bound by these treaties.