This case is that of Ms Beauty Igbobic Uzezi who was 19 years old when she enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force on August 15, 2010, with Service Number NAF10/25157F.
Her ordeal started one year later which culminated in her dismissal after putting in over five years of active and meritorious service at various military formations including the Nigerian Air force Base, Kaduna, the Base Services Wing, Abuja and lastly the Air Service Wing, Ikeja, Lagos on various military assignments.
She alleged that she was raped, sexually assaulted, and tortured by her boss while she was an airwoman in the Nigerian Air Force.
She is therefore seeking relief for the violation of her fundamental human rights. She alleged that her rights to physical and mental health, liberty, freedom of movement, fair hearing, non-discrimination, equality before the law, respect for life and integrity, respect of the dignity inherent in a human being was violated.
Who is accusing who and who was accused
Ms Beauty Igbobic Uzezi is the applicant in this suit while the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) is the respondent accused of violating the applicant’s rights.
What they want from the court
The Federal Republic of Nigeria prayed the court to dismiss the suit with costs and sought no other relief.
While Ms Bauty wants the court to declare that her violent rape and sexual assault on May 17, 2011, at the Nigerian Air force Base, Kaduna was in flagrant breach and violation of her fundamental rights to life, the dignity of human person and health as enshrined in Sections 33 and 34 of the1999 Constitution (as amended) and Articles 4, 6 and 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
She also wants the court to declare that her various arrests, detention and torture by the agent of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was illegal, unlawful and a flagrant violation of her fundamental right.
She wants a Declaration that her dismissal as a soldier in the Nigerian Air force by the Respondent without arraignment, prosecution and sentence by a duly constituted Court Martial is irregular, illegal, unlawful, null and void as the act of the Respondent herein constitutes a violation of her Fundamental Rights to fair hearing as stated in the provisions of SECTION 36 (1), (5) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) Third Alteration Act, Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Articles 8, 10, 11 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
She also sought a declaration that the act of the FRN herein is a gross violation of her rights to work under an equitable and conducive environment as guaranteed by the provisions of Articles 6(1), 7(a) (i), (b) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Article 15 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
She also wants the court to declare that the act of the FRN herein is a gross violation of her Rights to health as guaranteed by the provisions of Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Articles 6(1), 7(a) (i), (b) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Article 15 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
She wants a declaration that the act of the Respondent is a gross violation of her fundamental rights to work and freedom from unemployment as expressly guaranteed by the provisions of Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Consequently, she sought an Order of the Court compelling the FRN, its agents, organs, servants, privies or by whatsoever name called to pay her monthly salary and other allowances from the month of her last salary payment until the date the judgment is enforced in this suit.
She also wants an order directing the FRN to pay her the sum of $10 million as general damages for the physical, psychological and mental torture suffered by the Applicant as a result of the various human rights violations she was subjected to by the Respondent.
She wants an Order compelling the Respondent, its agents, organs, servants, privies to pay her the sum of $20 million as aggravated and punitive damages that will serve as a deterrent to the Respondent.
Another $500, 000.00 being the solicitor’s fees and other incidental costs. She also wants an Order directing the Respondent, its agents, organs, servants, privies or by whatsoever name called to immediately reinstate her to the rank her contemporaries in the Nigeria Air force currently occupy.
Finally, she sought an Order directing the Respondent, its agents, organs, servants, privies or by whatsoever name called to convert her purported dismissal to retirement at the rank her contemporaries in the Nigeria Air force occupied as at the time of enforcement of the Judgment.
Applicant’s argument/respondent’s response
The applicant, Ms. Beauty Igbobic Uzezi told the court that On May 17 2011, she was raped by a Flight Lieutenant who was her superior officer and trainer in the Nigerian Air force.
She tried to resist him but he overpowered her by hitting her head against the wall several times until she fainted while he had his way with her. Due to her injury, she was rushed to the accident and emergency ward in 345 Acromedical Hospital Kaduna, where she woke up the following day on admission.
She submitted that her health suffered greatly as a result of the sexual assault. She sustained physical injury, she contracted a sexually transmitted infection, which resulted in a chronic pelvic inflammatory disease and the growth of a solid mass close to her uterus.
She also suffered from intermittent fainting spells, severe vaginal discharge, chronic lower abdominal pains, dizziness and swollen vulva. She averred that her male superiors in the Nigeria Air force, rather than investigate and mete out appropriate sanctions against the alleged rapist, subjected her to unprecedented intimidation, victimization and threats to her life.
She said they constantly locked her up in the guardroom, and placed her on punishment duties with various degrees of punishment including a physical assault that caused bruises all over her body.
She claimed to have also received several death threats from other officers of the Nigerian Air force for daring to expose an officer of the Nigerian Air Force for raping her. She alleged that a regimental entry was made into her file, stating that she should never be promoted along with her colleagues and this directive was followed until her unlawful dismissal from the Nigerian Air Force.
On October 19, 2015, after being locked up in the guardroom by her squadron leader, he informed her that she had been dismissed from the Nigerian Air Force. This act was contrary to the Armed forces Act, which requires officers to be tried before dismissal.
She alleged that after the dismissal, she was chained to her hospital bed for eight days while on admission from October 20, 2015, to October 28, 2015, and afterwards she was further detained in the guardroom where she served ninety-eight (98) days of imprisonment with hard labour.
According to her, on October 28, 2015, she was unlawfully evicted from the flat allocated to her and her properties thrown out of the flat.
The Respondent in its defence denied every allegation of facts contained in Ms Beauty’s narration of facts.
The Respondent stated that Ms. Beauty’s claim of her right violation is based mainly on the violation of Article 6 of the African Charter, which provides that “Every individual shall have right to liberty” and to the security of his person. No one may be deprived of his freedom except for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law. In particular, no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained.”
The FRN argued that this provision is not absolute which means that a person may be detained in accordance with the provisions of previously laid down laws. It contended that the law under which a person is arrested, detained and/or prosecuted must be valid and in force, before or at the time of such arrest, detention and/or prosecution.
According to the FRN, when the alleged incident of alleged sexual abuse and other violations happened to the Applicant as an Aircraft woman, she was subject to the Armed Forces Act.
Section 77 of the Act provides that “A person subject to service law under this Act who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent or with her consent obtained –
a) By force or by means of threat or intimidation is guilty of an offence under this section and liable on conviction by a court martial to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years or any less punishment provided by this Act.”
Based on the provision of the Act, the Respondent states that both the alleged perpetrator and the Applicant are subject to the service law and should be dealt with in accordance with the same law.
FRN averred that Ms. Beauty can not seek relief from this Court for the alleged violation of her rights, especially since the Armed Forces Act provides for the offence of rape and prescribes punishment for the crime.
The Respondent submitted that it is not in breach of the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as alleged by Ms. Beauty.
Regarding the applicant’s entitlement to the reliefs she sought, the Respondent asserts that the answer is in the negative. They argue that the assessment of damages or compensation must be based on credible, cogent and sufficient evidence placed before the Court by a claimant which was not provided by her as her claim is tainted with obvious falsehood.
The Respondent submitted that there are no facts before the Court upon which the declarations or orders as claimed by the Applicant can be awarded since the Respondent has not done anything that is unconstitutional to warrant any of the declarations and orders sought by the Applicant.
FRN also submitted that the burden of adducing evidence to justify the award of such declarations and orders rests on the Applicant, which she has not discharged but merely fabricated stories against the Respondent..
The FRN noted that the names Ms. Beauty mentioned in her Application as perpetrators of the violations against her, do not include the Respondent and the Applicant did not deem it relevant to join these individuals in the suit before the Court.
Consequently, the Respondent( Federal Republic of Nigeria) urged the Court to dismiss the Application with deterring costs, as it is frivolous and without merit.
What the judge ruled
After listening to submissions and arguments from both parties, the presiding judge, Justice Edward Amoako Asante declared that the rape of the Applicant violated her right to dignity of human being under Article 5 of the African Charter by the Respondent;
The judge also declared that the applicant’s right to liberty under Article 6 of the African Charter was violated by the Respondent ( FRN).
The court also declared that Ms.beauty’s right to work and right to health under the African Charter was violated by FRN.
The court dismissed the allegation that her right to life under Article 4 of the Charter was violated by the FRN and all other declarations sought by the Applicant.
The court ordered the federal republic of Nigeria to convert her dismissal to retirement from service with the attendant benefits, effective from the date of enforcement of this judgment.
The court also ordered them to pay her salaries, allowances and other benefits from the date of the unlawful discharge on October 19 2015 to the date of enforcement of this judgment;
Most importantly, the court ordered FRN Orders to carry out an impartial investigation into the rape of the Applicant and prosecute the perpetrator and his accomplices.
The court also ordered the FRN to pay the sum of two $200,000 to the Applicant as compensation for moral prejudice suffered as a result of the violation of her rights under Articles 5,6, 15 and 16 of the African Charter.