Appeal Court Dismisses Suit Seeking to Exonerate Saro-Wiwa, Others

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, has dismissed an appeal by Gani Topba, the leader of a civil society group, Conscience of Ogoni People, against the judgment of Ogoni Civil Disturbances Tribunal of 1995 against the Ogoni environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, for lack of merit.

The late Saro-Wiwa and 11 others, were tagged criminals by the tribunal, which found them guilty and sentenced them to death.

Topba had approached a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt to seek legal clearance of the name of the 12 Ogoni heroes from the negative image placed on them by the judgment of the tribunal and declare them innocent of the offence levelled against them.

But Justice Lima Abdulahi in a judgment he delivered in 2017, struck out the suit, thereby upholding the ruling of the tribunal, holding that the suit was an academic exercise.

Abdulahi said the appellant did not state what he suffered following the judgment of the tribunal neither did he claim damages over the killing of the victims, following the decision of the panelists.

Justice Abdullahi had stated in his judgment that the Decree that established the Special Tribunal on Civil Disturbances, including that of Ogoni that delivered the death sentence did not make provision for appeal.

He also stated that those sentenced to death or long term imprisonment had no opportunity to appeal the judgment based on the decree binding the tribunal.

Following his appeal, the Court of Appeal yesterday Justice Cordelia Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo while delivering the judgment, yet upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court, affirming that the “appellant was merely exercising his academic prowess.

“It is not the function or duty of the court to engage in academic exercise or speculation, the court was established to determine live issues.”

Justice Jombo-Ofo stated that the appellant lacks needed locus standi to initiate the appeal. She, therefore, dismissed the appeal.

However, Topba told journalists shortly after the judgment that it is not yet over.

He insisted that the Appeal Court was biased and that he would proceed to the Supreme Court.

He said: “We are heading to the Supreme Court, it is said that the right of the minority could be denied even at this level, I had an incline that today’s judgment would look like this and I am not surprised.

“I have hope in the Supreme Court of Nigeria, that it would do justice to this matter because Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed wrongly and that must be established and corrected because if it is not, it will happen again.”