Alex Enumah in Abuja
Twenty-five Nigerians from all works of life have dragged the Peoples Republic of China before the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court over alleged culpability in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, the Claimants in the suit filed yesterday on their behalf by a team of 11 Senior Advocates of Nigeria ((SANs) and other lawyers led by Professor Epiphany Azinge (SAN), are suing the defendants for damages occasioned to the class and members thereof on account of the COVID-19 caused by the defendants’ negligence, nuisance, and breach of environmental and humanitarian rights.
The claimant in a class action instituted for themselves and other Nigerians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic include; Kingsley Obioha, Shehu Mohammed Bello, Goodrand Nigeria Limited, Chief Ekene Ebuzeme, Prince Akin Oladipo, Sir Mark Olajide, Mr. Tanko Beji, Chief Victor Nwosa, Chidi Onwuemere, Pasaya Travel and Tours Limited, Trips Shop Limited, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, Carolyn Asoanya, Jerry Azinge, His Royal Majesty Williams Ezugwu, Ogugua Ogosi.
Others are Ayobami Bakare, Olusegun Nelson, Oshineye Adebowole, Adeolu Odusesan, Yinka Omotosho, Mojeed Adelakun, Ajetoke Oyekan, Abdulhakeem Adeleke and Ademola Toromade.
The defendants are; Peoples’ Republic of China, Communist Party of China, Minister of Justice China, Minister in charge of the National Health commission, National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan Institute of Virology and Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the 1st Claimant, Kingsley Obioha, a young erudite lawyer who represents the class of legal practitioners in the country, the legal practitioners in the country on account of the pandemic have been unable to conduct legal business and make appearances in court.
“The class due to the impasse and the attendant restrictions continues to incur heavy financial losses”.
Similarly Shehu Bello, the 2nd Claimant and a Bureau de change operator representing the class of forex traders carrying on business across the country, argued that forex traders suffered great losses as their trading was completely shut down on account of the pandemic.
“Most of the operators lost their capital because of the pandemic and with the easing of restrictions are witnessing a volatility of the market leading to a decline in investment,” the claimant said.
They accused China of failing to act in accordance with the Articles and the provisions of the International Health Regulations, 2005 which it equally ratified on June 15, 2007 (the IHR) and failing to promptly inform the World Health Organisation (WHO) of its discoveries relating to Covid-19, adding that the act constitutes a breach of the above Articles, and admittedly an express neglect of an international obligation.
They argued that the conduct of any state organ shall be considered an act of that state under international law, regardless of whether the organ exercises legislative, executive, judicial or any other functions, whatever position it holds in the organisation of the state, and whatever its character as an organ of the central government or of a territorial unit of the state.
“At the hearing of this suit, the claimants shall show that the conduct of the defendants in suppressing information about the outbreak of the virus, is a violation of provisions of the Articles and other incumbent obligations of international customary law, for which the 1st defendants must be held liable”, Azinge said.
Among the reliefs sought include a declaration that the defendants were negligent in their handling of the COVID-19 outbreak and breached their duty of care owed to the claimants and other members of the class thereof, resulting in untold hardship, death, loss of livelihood and disruption of socio-economic activities.
“A declaration that the defendants handling of the Covid-19 outbreak violated the Claimants’ humanitarian rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, resulting in social exclusion, loss of human dignity psychological trauma and social deprivations,” among others.