United States District Court, District of Columbia
L. FRIEDRICH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiffs in this case are Nigerian nationals who allege
that the defendants-officials in the Nigerian government,
military, and police-brutally tortured and killed peaceful
protesters. Before the Court are the defendants' Motions
to Dismiss. Dkt. 35; Dkt. 36. Because the Court lacks
personal jurisdiction over the defendants and lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction over the action, the Court must
grant the motions and dismiss this action.
suit arises from a long-running intra-Nigerian conflict
between the Nigerian government and Biafrans, who are people
of predominantly Igbo ethnicity and Christian religion who
have sought secession from Nigeria for decades. See
Compl. ¶¶ 44-47, Dkt. 1. Biafra declared
independence in 1967, resulting in the Nigerian Civil War,
but Biafra was reintegrated into Nigeria in 1970.
See Dkt. 39-1 at 6, 11. The independence movement
persisted, however, as did clamp-down efforts by the Nigerian
government and its military, which is dominated by Nigerians
of Hausa-Fulani ethnicity and Muslim religion. See
Compl. ¶¶ 45-46.
January 18, 2016, a pro-Biafran organization, the Indigenous
People of Biafra, held a protest at the National High School
in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria. Id. ¶¶ 22,
179. Nigerian military and police forces allegedly
“fired into the private observation and peaceful
protest.” Id. ¶ 179. On February 9, 2016,
the Indigenous People of Biafra organized another gathering
at the National High School. Id. ¶¶ 57-58.
When the participants gathered for morning prayers, Nigerian
military and police forces allegedly “stormed the high
school campus, scaled the fences, and began to
indiscriminately shoot the assemblage.” Id.
¶¶ 56-60. According to the complaint, more than
thirty members of the Indigenous People of Biafra were
fatally or critically wounded; many more were arrested and
tortured. Id. ¶ 60.
29, 2016, hundreds of pro-Biafran Igbo Nigerians travelled to
Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. Id. ¶ 51. They
planned to participate the next day in Biafran Patriots Day
events, planned by the Indigenous People of Biafra to
commemorate Biafra's 1967 declaration of independence.
See Id. ¶ 49. That night, Nigerian military and
police forces allegedly attacked Igbo Nigerians sleeping in
St. Edmund's Catholic Church. Id. ¶ 51-52.
Using tear gas and live ammunition, the attackers
“kill[ed] and injur[ed] many as they slept.”
Id. On May 30, the military and police forces
allegedly “returned to slaughter more ethnic
Igbos.” Id. ¶ 53.
plaintiffs sued on the following Biafran Patriots Day-May 30,
2017, id. at 53, and the Court permitted them to
proceed anonymously to avoid retaliation, see Dkt.
4. The plaintiffs are Nigerian nationals. See Compl.
¶ 1. Four plaintiffs (John Does 6 through 9) are legal
representatives of alleged victims of extrajudicial killings
caused by the attacks in Abia State on January 18 and
February 9, 2016. Id. ¶¶ 142-86. Five
plaintiffs (John Does 1 through 5) are legal representatives
of alleged victims of extrajudicial killings caused by the
attacks in Anambra State on May 29-30, 2016, id.
¶¶ 79-141, and one plaintiff (John Doe 10) was
allegedly tortured himself after being detained during those
attacks, id. ¶¶ 187-99. The plaintiffs
assert claims under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. §
1350, and the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991, which
provides a civil cause of action to victims of torture and
Establishment of Civil Action.
(a) Liability.-An individual who, under actual or apparent
authority, or color of law, of any foreign nation-
(1) subjects an individual to torture shall, in a civil
action, be liable for damages to that individual; or
(2) subjects an individual to extrajudicial killing shall, in
a civil action, be liable for damages to the individual's
legal representative, or to any person who may be a claimant
in an action for wrongful death.
Pub. L. No. 102-256, § 2(a), 106 Stat 73, 73 (Mar. 12,
1992) (codified as a note to 28 U.S.C. §
defendants, the complaint names sixteen members of the
Nigerian government, military, and police who allegedly
“conspired and agreed that killings of Biafran
civilians were necessary to quash political opposition . . .
and to terrorize the population.” Compl. ¶ 63.
Accordingly, they planned, directed, and executed the attacks
against Igbo Nigerians; the Nigerian military and police
forces who perpetrated the torture and extrajudicial killings
“act[ed] under the command of, in conspiracy with,
and/or as the agent of one or more of the Defendants.”
Id. ¶ 65. In particular, the defendants are:
• Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai - Chief of
Staff of the Nigerian Army, Compl. ¶¶ 12-13;
• Lawal Musa Daura - Director General of the Nigerian
State Security Service, id. ¶¶ 14-15;
• Major General Ibrahim Attahiru - Commander of the 82nd
Division of the Nigerian Army, id. ¶¶
• Major M.I. Ibrahim - Commander of the Nigerian
Military Police in Onitsha and Abia State, Nigeria,
id. ¶¶ 19-21;
• Lieutenant Colonel Kasim Umar Sidi - Commander of the
144th Battalion of the Nigerian Army, id.
• Colonel Issah Maigari Abdullahi - Commander of the 302
Artillery Regime of the Nigerian Army and the Onitsha
Military Cantonment in Anambra State, Nigeria, id.
• Solomon Arase - Inspector General of the Nigerian
Police Force (until his retirement on June 21, 2016),
id. ¶¶ 31-32;
• Ibrahim Kpotun Idris - current Inspector General of
the Nigerian Police Force (Arase's successor),
id. ¶¶ 33-34;
• Okezie Victor Ikpeazu - Governor of Abia State,
Nigeria, id. ¶ 35;
• Willie Obiano - Governor of Anambra State, Nigeria,
id. ¶ 36;
• Habila Hosea - Commissioner of the Nigerian Police
Command for Abia State, Nigeria during the alleged attacks
(now the Deputy Inspector General of the Nigerian Police
Force), id. ¶ 37;
• Peter Nwagbara - Assistant Commissioner of the
Nigerian Police Command for Abia State, Nigeria, id.
• James Oshim Nwafor - Chief Superintendent of Police
and Officer-in-Charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of
the Nigerian Police Command for Anambra State, Nigeria,
id. ¶ 39;
• Hassan Karma - Commissioner of the Nigerian Police
Command for Anambra State, Nigeria, id. ¶ 40;
• Bassey Abang - Chief Superintendent of Police and
Officer-in-Charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad for
Anambra State, Nigeria, id. ¶ 41;
• Johnson Babatunde Kokomo - Deputy Commissioner of
Police in charge of operations in Anambra State, Nigeria,
id. ¶ 42.
approximately August 2017, the Nigerian government-acting
through its embassy in the United States-transmitted a
diplomatic note to the U.S. Department of State requesting a
suggestion of immunity for the defendants. See Manu
Decl. ¶¶ 3-5, Dkt. 36-2; see also Dkt.
41-1 at 7-10. According to the request, “the Nigerian
Government categorically disputes the Plaintiffs' claims
and their characterization of the facts and further denies
that the Defendants committed any wrongdoing or violated
Nigerian, United States, or international law, ” and
the defendants “are current or former government