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Late Journalist widow, Salem Slams $17m suit against FG before ECOWAS Court

By Olalekan Awojodu, Abuja

Mrs Deve Bossua Salem, wife of the late Vanguard newspaper’s House of Representatives’ Correspondent, Tordue Salem, has instituted a rights enforcement suit against the Federal Government of Nigeria at the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/32/22, dated July 7, 2022, was filed on behalf of Mrs Salem (Plaintiff), by Chief Sebastine Hon SAN. Specifically, the suit seeks redress over violation of the plaintiff’s late husband’s right to life as enshrined in Articles 4, 5, 6 and 23(1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
The Plaintiff wants an order for the Federal Government to pay the Plaintiff the sum of 2 million US Dollars, being the sum the late Tordue Salem would have, if alive till exhaustion of his life expectancy as a Christian, given to the Plaintiff for her maintenance and the maintenance of their little daughter, Avanna Salem.

Mrs Salem also prays for an order that the Defendant should pay her the sum of 10million US Dollars compensatory damages for the mental and psychological anguish caused her, together with the permanent deprivation of her right to enjoy the love of her life, owing to the unlawful and unconstitutional murder of her husband, Mr Tordue Salem.

“An order that the Defendant should pay to the Plaintiff the sum of 5 million US Dollars aggravated damages for the illegal detention, torture and the premeditated murder of the late Mr. Tordue Salem by officers of the Nigerian police, who acted in a most reprehensible and unlawful manner/ for willful negligence on the part of the police, who refused, failed or neglected to intervene swiftly to save the life of the deceased.
“Interest at the rate of 25% (twenty-five per centum) per annum on any sum/all sums of money awarded by this Honourable Court as monetary judgment, calculated from the date of judgment till the judgment sum is fully liquidated”.

The Plaintiff equally wants a declaration that FG, through its police officers, acted in breach of the provisions of the African Charter when it arrested, detained and tortured Mr. Tordue Salem to death; and thereafter falsely claimed, with the active support/conspiracy of the staff/employees of Wuse General Hospital, Abuja (a Government-owned Hospital), that the deceased was/had been knocked down by a motor vehicle driven by a hit-and-run driver, Mr. Clement Itoro.

“A declaration that the Defendant’s police officers were willfully negligent, in that they failed to proactively take steps to secure the life of Mr. Tordue Salem (deceased), when one Mr. Clement Itoro reported to them at a police check point which was not far from the scene of a motor accident, about hitting the deceased with his car, which resulted in his death, which death could possibly have been averted had the police acted with official dispatch and or acted swiftly.
The Plaintiff claimed in court processes that

“Even though the Department of State Security Services acknowledged receipt of a petition written to them concerning the disappearance of Late Tordue Salem, it never formally communicated with the family of the deceased. “Rather, one of its operatives, Mamman Nasir, provided his GSM number to the family of the deceased, to be reached at any time; but on each occasion he was called, he would say this was a possible kidnap case; hence the family should exercise some patience”.

Also, the Plaintiff stated that a Chief Superintendent of Police, Bimbo Oyewole, from FCT Command, who led a team of investigators to unravel the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of late Tordue, on November 5, 2021, called the family relatives to his office, where they were informed that the police was still checking some mortuaries in the FCT Abuja to see if they could find the corpse of Henry Tordue Salem.

“One week to a press briefing organised by the Police, CSP Oyewole informed the family of the deceased that, following a lead, the police had arrested one Mr Clement Itoro, who had killed the late Henry Tordue Salem in a motor car hit-and-run manner. This was clearly shocking to the family, but they decided to watch on” the ECOWAS Court was told.

On November 11, 2021, according to court papers, the police “Intelligence Response Team” Abuja, called the family and informed them through their Commander that the police had confirmed the hit-and-run incident to have happened on October 13, 2021, which led to Tordue Salem’s death.

In view of the complicity in the investigation of Salem’s death, the family said it observed “inescapable facts”. “The Plaintiff, from facts (Facts at/concerning the Mortuary, and Autopsy Report), strongly believes that her husband was not killed by a hit-and-run driver as claimed by the Nigerian police but was murdered by the police.

“In the alternative, the Plaintiff maintains that her husband died as a result of the wilful negligence of the said police, when they refused, failed or neglected to either apprehend Mr Clement Itoro, the so called hit-and-run driver or compel him to take them to the scene of the accident, with a view to making efforts to save the life of the deceased”.

Late Tordue was seen by relatives the last time alive on the morning of October 13, 2021, when he left his Godab Estate residence, Life Camp, Abuja for work.
Plaintiff’s lawyer, Chief Hon said he would rely on documentary and oral evidence to argue his case. In addition to possible oral evidence, the following documents were attached: “Letter to the Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja Command, dated 19/10/2021; Letter to the Director-General of the Department of State Security Services, also dated 19/10/2021.

Letter to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), dated 26/10/2021; Letter to the Commandant General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), dated 3/11/2021; Letter to the Editor of the Vanguard Newspaper, dated 26/10/2021.
Letter to the Governor of Benue State, dated 26/10/2021. Autopsy Report signed by Dr. P.G. Jubrin, dated 25/11/2021.

Two DVDs/VCDs of TVC Television news, aired on 12/11/2021. A DVD/VCD of the news briefing by Frank Mba, aired on 25/10/2021 TVC Television news.

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