Okeke v The Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform and Others

CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr Justice Michael Peart
Judgment Date17 February 2006
Neutral Citation[2006] IEHC 46
Date17 February 2006
Docket NumberRecord Number: No. 351 JR/2005

[2006] IEHC 46


Record Number: No. 351 JR/2005


Jennifer Okeke


The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Elizabeth O'Brien, Refugee Appeals Tribunal, The Attorney General, and Ireland

AG v WARD 1993 2 SCR 689


P (B) v MIN JUSTICE 2003 4 IR 201


Judicial review

Application for leave - Asylum - Fair procedures - Internal relocation - Whether obligation on decision maker to notify applicant of issue relevant to decision prior to hearing - Whether substantial grounds advanced by applicant for challenging decision of respondent - Whether respondent failed to take into account relevant considerations when deciding that applicant could relocate internally - B.P v. Minister for Justice [2003] 4 I.R. 201 distinguished - Application dismissed (2005/351JR - Peart J - 17/02/2006) [2006] IEHC 46

Facts: The applicant sought leave to challenge by way of judicial review a decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal refusing to grant her refugee status on the grounds that the tribunal member failed to take into account relevant considerations and further that the tribunal member’s determination that the applicant could have relocated to another part Nigeria and accessed effective state protection was not supported by any evidence and further that she was not given an adequate opportunity to address the issue of relocation having not received any prior warning that that was an issue.

Held by Peart J in refusing the application:

1. That the applicant did not establish substantial grounds for arguing that the Tribunal failed to take into account relevant considerations when determining that the applicant could have relocated and furthermore the applicant did not attempt to show in any substantial way what considerations were not taken into account.

2. That there were no substantial grounds for arguing that the Tribunal Member could not reasonably have concluded without specific evidence and inquiry that in a country of the size and population of Nigeria that the applicant could have accessed meaningful state protection. Furthermore, the applicant did not show that there were substantial grounds for contending a lack of fair procedures.

Reporter: L.O’S.

Judgment of
Mr Justice Michael Peart

The applicant is Nigerian and came to this country on the 22nd September 2003 via Amsterdam. In her interview she stated that she was born in Lagos on the 25th December 1975, but that she was living in Kano prior to her departure. She stated that prior to that she had lived in Onitsha from 2000 to 2002. Prior to 2000 she had lived in Lagos where she had been born. By way of some further background she appears to be well-educated, and stated at interview that she had worked in Nigeria as a cashier and as a receptionist, and had also studied law. Those studies were apparently interrupted by her marriage to a man who did not want her to continue them. She stated at her interview that she was promised in marriage to a man in settlement of some debt due to that man. She had not wanted to be married to him but it went ahead in any event in January 2000. It was according to her interview a traditional marriage and was not registered.


She stayed with her husband for about two years, but she stated at interview that she left him because of beatings and threats of circumcision. She left the marriage and went to her aunt's house, but it appears then that the aunt told her husband ("the Chief") where she was because he had come to the village looking for her. She left for another location, but had some motor accident on her way there which resulted in her going to hospital. She stated that the Chief went to see her there on two occasions as did her family. She sustained a very severe injury to her leg which eventually resulted in its amputation below the knee due to infection.


She had also met up with another man, "Sariki", who she had met at a bank where she lodged money, and with whom she formed some type of relationship after she left hospital. He is the father of her child. It appears that her husband "the Chief" heard about this relationship, became angry as a result, and hit her causing her to bleed from a wound in her head. It appears that this Sariki wanted her to leave the area with him, but she was afraid to do that because of what the Chief might do to her husband. In any event she later fled to Kano and at the airport there was an ambulance waiting for her because infection had set into her leg injury. She was taken to hospital where it was found that gangrene had set into the wound and her leg was amputated as I have stated. Sariki appears to have been instrumental in her receiving this treatment. When she left the hospital she went to live in the house of a college friend of his.


She stated also that Sariki's family were not happy about her with him because she is from a different tribe, the Ibo tribe, whereas Sariki was Hausa, and they had some other lady in mind for him to marry in due course. She became pregnant. She told Sariki. His father and family were very upset about him seeing her, and they began to meet less often. She was advised to go out of the house only in the evenings and she did so with a friend of Sariki's named Ahmed. Ahmed appears to have arranged matters so that she could escape from the back of the house she was living in if she had to. Ahmed apparently came back one day and she told him she wanted to go out for some air. It was getting dark and she dressed in a purdah to cover herself. She stated that when she and Ahmed came back to the house she went to lie down. She heard the bell ring and heard someone speaking in Hausa. The man apparently rushed in and a fight ensued between Ahmed and this person who was carrying a dagger. Ahmed shouted to her to flee which she did in spite of being pregnant and having a prosthesis on her leg. She says that she went to the house of a lady called "Zenab" who let her in and she told her what had happened. They hailed a taxi apparently and went to a guest house together. Zenab was able to ring Sariki on her mobile phone. It appears that he was at that time in a place called Jos but he said he would fly down to Kano and this Zenab told Sariki where she was. He duly arrived about six hours later and he went to Ahmed's house because Ahmed's mobile phone was switched off, whereupon he was told that Ahmed was in hospital having been stabbed. The applicant says that she felt very guilty about this because it was on account of her that this injury had happened to Ahmed. Sariki came back and told Zenab to go back to her house to get belongings but she did not want to. It appears that Sariki wanted Zenab and the applicant to go to Lagos and stay with a friend named Chioma. But she said that they could not stay with Chioma. Sariki said that he would have to stay with Ahmed to care for him and that he would come to Lagos later.


She stated that she went to Lagos in September 2003, but that there was nobody in Chioma's house, and that a security man told her that she was in her husband's village and would be back in a few days. She says that she gave Zenab's mobile phone number to him and they stayed in a guest house, and that in due course when Chioma returned she took them in, and the applicant explained everything that had happened to her. In the meantime, Sariki was also keeping in touch by mobile phone.


Later the same evening Sariki arrived and said that Ahmed would be alright, and he apparently told the applicant that she would be leaving for Canada and that he would meet the person who would arrange this on the following morning. He stayed the night and met that person the following morning, but was told that she would not be going to Canada but rather to Britain or Ireland, since it would be three weeks before she would be able to go to Canada. Sariki thought that was too long to wait and said that she could leave for Dublin or Britain the next day.


At interview she was asked why she did not stay in Lagos since her parents were there, to which she stated that the Chief would still go back to get her and that her father was scared of the Chief. It was put to her that Lagos was a big place and that she could have stayed away from her family, and that they could have visited her. She stated that the problem was the pressure that the Chief could exert on her father, and also that Chioma could have helped her but if the Chief were to get hold of her (the applicant) her child would be in danger, and that by tradition the Chief would take the child and that there would be nothing which Sariki could do about it.


It was put to her then that she could have gone to "another city", but she said that she was born in Lagos, had gone to Onitsha and Aba and Kano. She was asked if she could have gone to Warri since Sariki stays there. But she stated that she could not because his business is there.


At the conclusion of her interview she was asked whether there was anything which she wished to add. In answer to this the applicant said that there was an incident which she had not spoken about and which occurred before she had left the Chief. She stated that she had been to the Central Police station in Onitsha and had explained her situation and that she was being forced into being circumcised. It appears that the Chief had threatened to have her forcibly circumcised as this might stop her seeing other men. Without going into the matter in full detail it appears from her answer that she received no assistance or sympathy for her predicament. She stated also that when she left the Station and went home, and that when the Chief came home he burst into her room as he had found out that she had gone to...

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