Justice as family gets $250,000 over son’s death
ECOWAS Court orders Ghana to pay compensation for death of Nigerian student
The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) sitting in Abuja has ordered the Republic of Ghana to pay $250,000 as compensation to the family of a 15-year old Nigerian student, Augustine Chukwuebuka Ogukwe, who died in a swimming incident on October 15, 2013 in Ghana.
The court in a judgment delivered by Justice Micah Wilkins Wright, which was obtained by The Guardian yesterday, said the compensation is for the failure of the country’s police to carry out a proper investigation into the death of the student, thereby failing in its obligation to protect and defend all persons within its territory.
In suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/03/14, father of the deceased, Mr. Obioma Ogukwe, alleged that he was given an autopsy report issued by the Ghana Police Hospital without his consent or knowledge, which revealed that the basic cause of death was drowning, while the direct cause was asphyxia by submersion.
Led in evidence by his counsel, Mr. Femi Adedeji, the plaintiff also alleged that the physical appearance, contrary to the autopsy report, showed evidence of torture on the body and the wounds on his face and sides were evidence of beating, torture, and gruesome murder.
In the suit filed on February 20, 2014, Ogukwe claimed that the government of Ghana neither took steps to investigate the matter nor set up a Coroner Inquest to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of the deceased and prosecute any person found culpable in violation of the country’s obligations under international human rights instruments.
But the defence counsel, Mrs. Dorothy Afriyie-Ansah, submitted that “given the peculiar circumstances of the death of Master Austine Ogukwe, where no fingerprints could be taken, nobody saw how it happened and the tip-off was from an unknown informant, no arrest could have been effected.”
She refuted the claims that the state failed or refused to investigate the matter and to conduct a coroner’s inquest to unravel the strange occurrence, but that a report of full-scale investigation had been submitted to the office of the Attorney General for advice.
Afriyie-Ansah further contended that the plaintiff was not entitled to his claim for compensation for a death caused by drowning and not unlawful causes.
The three-member panel of judges of the court led by Justice Micah Wilkins Wright, acknowledged that though the defendant may not be liable for acts of private institutions operating in its territory, the state has a duty to protect all persons in its territory and to properly investigate or institute an inquiry and punish all acts of violence and violations committed in its territory.
The judges also noted the defendant’s failure to provide evidence in support of its argument, including the documentation of the crime scene, to explain the marks on the body of the deceased, which could have been as a result of several factors.
The late Augustine, who was until the tragedy a Student of Ideal College, Tema, near the country’s capital, was said to have died during a jogging exercise involving 45 other students who were later diverted into swimming.
Other members of the panel were Justices Friday Chijioke Nwoke and Alioune Sall.