*Demand $200bn compensation on the class action
By Myke Uzendu
25 top Nigerian citizens including a royal father and companies, have Monday, made good their threat as they approached the Federal High Court claiming $200b as damages against the Chinese Government and seven of its institutions, ruling Communist Party and agents for claimed unquantifiable “hardship, deaths and disruption of socio-economic activities” due to the Corona Virus pandemic, known as Covid-19.
Listed as defendants in the Writ of Summons drawn by Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN), the Principal Partner of Azinge Azinge SAN and Co, indludes: the Peoples’ Republic of China; the Communist Party of China; the Minister of Justice, China; the Minister in charge of the National Health commission; the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China; the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Centre for Disease and Prevention.
Among the 25 claimants are His Royal Majesty, Igwe Willy Ezugwu, Alhaji Shehu Mohammed Bello, Goodrand Nigeria Limited, Chief Ekene Ebuzeme, Prince Akin Oladipo, Sir Mark Olajide, Bar. Tanko Beji, Chief Victor Nwosa, Chidi Onwuemere, Pasaya Travel and Tours Limited and Trips Shop Limited.
The former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) Prof. Azinge, is leading 22 other senior lawyers, which included 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria SAN, to prosecute the case.
Recall that The AUTHORITY had reported the drawing up of the pre-action notice, which officials of the Chinese Embassy refused to be served by refusing to collect same at their Central Area, Abuja, Embassy.
The Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Zhou Pingjian, had in a press statement described the lawsuit as being propelled by “rabble rousers, who are mere busy bodies looking for relevance and trouble where there is none”.
He had dismissed the allegations against his governemt and institutions as a “non-issue”, claiming instead that covid-19 wreaked more havoc in Chains than any other place in the world.
Prof. Azinge in the Writ drew up several claims and declarations, including asking the court to make “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”.
He also sought for “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.
“A declaration that the defendants’ actions in willfully allowing the escape and spread of coronavirus (Covid 19) constituted nuisance and interfered with the claimants right to enjoy comfort and convenience and has endangered the lives, and health of the public in general.
“A declaration that the defendants, on account of its polluting activities are liable to be held responsible for the outbreak of Covid-19 under trans- boundary environmental law”.
He therefore sought for an award of the sum of US200 billion United States Dollars only or its Naira equivalent, as general damages to be paid the defendants for the listed “acts of negligence, nuisance, breach of environmental and humanitarian rights occasioned on the claimants and other members of the class, for illness, death, loss of employment and significant economic damages”.
He equally demanded interest on the judgement sum entered for the claimants at 10% from the date of judgment, until final payment.
Additionally, he asked the court to award cost of the action “on a full indemnity basis, including but not limited to cost of legal representatives’ fees and expenses”.
The action is being maintained “for themselves and on behalf of all those class of people who are adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic including but not limited to: low income earners who suffer the resultant economic hardship, craftsmen, farmers, business-persons, entrepreneurs, oil and gas servicing companies, forex traders, market men and women, community leaders and stakeholders, realtors, aviators, travel agencies and other similar staff or employees whose jobs have been rendered redundant and those who suffer tangible and incalculable losses from the spread of Covid19 who are unascertainable or cannot be found by reason of death or otherwise( collectively members of the class and subclasses)”.
The lawyers also stated that “the claimants are suing the defendants for damages occasioned to the class and members thereof on account of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID 19) caused by the defendants’ negligence, nuisance, breach of environmental and humanitarian rights”.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court is yet to assign the matter to any court.