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EE (Nigeria – Snake worshippers) Nigeria  UKIAT 00058
IMMIGRATION APPEAL TRIBUNAL
Date of hearing: 27 September 2004
Date Determination notified: 03 March 2005
Mrs J A J C Gleeson (Vice President)
Mrs L R Schmitt, JP
Mrs J E Nichols
For the appellant: Mr K Mayo, of Counsel, instructed by Haq Hamilton Hughes & Co, Solicitors
For the respondent: Mr C Buckley, Home Office Presenting Officer
DETERMINATION AND REASONS
|Secretary of State for the Home Department
- The appellant appeals with leave against the determination of an Adjudicator, Mrs N Bird, who dismissed her appeal on both asylum and humanitarian grounds. This determination was delivered orally at the hearing.
- The claimant is a Nigerian citizen who claims to be at risk on return because she would be killed by snake worshippers. The claimant is a Roman Catholic of the Igbo tribe, who lived in a village which worshipped a snake (or perhaps snakes). She is said to have killed 'the snake' or a snake in 2000, upon finding it in her bed. her husband and foster mother died in 2003, apparently in punishment for her killing 'the snake'. The villagers then sought out the claimant, seeking as a punishment to make her drink the water in which her husband's dead body had been washed.
- The claimant made an excuse to return to her own home first, but instead went to the police stn and reported the problem to the police. She has been in the United Kingdom since June 2003. The authorities, she contends, would not protect her on return (although it appears that a Christian policeman helped her to escape). The Adjudicator found the claimant's account incredible, especially as during a 3-year absence after the claimant killed it, the villagers had apparently not missed the snake they worshipped, . He also had difficulty believing that the snake which the claimant killed, did not attempt to bite the claimant when she discovered it.
- Following CA  EWCA Civ 1165, All ER (D) 354 (July) , it is not enough for an appellant to disagree with the Adjudicator's findings of fact; unless those findings are perverse or Wednesbury unreasonable the Tribunal is debarred from ousting factual findings made by an Adjudicator who saw and heard the claimant give evidence. Permission to appeal to this Tribunal requires an arguable error of law, not fact. Leave to appeal was granted on the basis that it was possible that the Adjudicator might have misunderstood parts of the appellant's account and, in particular, that at paragraph 10 of the determination the Adjudicator referred to the claimant being 'charged' but the witness statement did not make that claim. Internal flight to the Catholic area of Nigeria should be considered.
- We have the benefit of a skeleton argument from Mr Mayo setting out the appellant's claims in terms which, whilst consistent with the grounds of appeal, are rather more focused. Most of the Grounds of Appeal as therein summarise are, on closer examination, questions of fact. At ground 1, the skeleton argument submits that the Adjudicator misdirected herself in concluding that the snake did not bite the applicant, as it was a well known fact that a snake would not bite if not harmed. The applicant did not harm the snake which reached her bed, therefore there was no reason for the snake to bite her. The Adjudicator's finding that the snake did nothing to her "is without any basis".
- We asked Mr Mayo to clarify this rather confusing statement he clarified that his position was that the snake did not bite and it was a habit of snakes not to bite if not harmed. This is not a matter which is within the personal knowledge of any member of this Tribunal and it is possible that the Adjudicator has applied a Western perspective, as snakes in beds are relatively uncommon in the United Kingdom.
- The second point made is that the applicant says that "the snake was worshipped" by the villagers and yet they did not find is strange that they did not see "the snake" for 3 years. The skeleton argument suggests that it is obvious that snake worshippers do not only worship one snake and it was not the same snake to which the applicant referred. That is not consistent with the applicant's witness statement provided with her Form SEF, with her observations at interview, nor indeed with her oral evidence to the Adjudicator, all of which make it perfectly clear that it was one particular snake worshipped by this village which was in question. It is not open to the appellant's representatives to give evidence on her behalf and even if it were, we would prefer the appellant's own evidence. Accordingly, we uphold and rely upon the Adjudicator's finding that the snake which was killed was a particular snake worshipped by that particular area.
- The next argument is that the Adjudicator's erred in considering that she 'did not believe' the applicant would have managed to run away from the villagers to the police station if being sought by the villagers. The claimant repeated her assertion that she asked the villagers to let her go home to get her rosary, before drinking the washed water of her husband's dead body. On the way, she changed her mind and went to the police station, and the submission is that "nothing is illogical" in her claimed actions. Again, that may be, but it is not determinative of this appeal, save to show the appellant was prepared to call on domestic protection.
- At ground 4, the appellant argued that when she went to the police station, she was just detained without specific charge, and there was no evidence that she was detained under the charge of murdering her husband as the Adjudicator concluded. The appellant's own evidence was that she was detained in connection with 'a murder'. It is possible there is a misinterpretation here, and that the murder in question was that of the snake, but on the evidence which the appellant gave at interview it is not likely, even to the lower standard applicable to these Conventions. In any event, whether or not the appellant was charged with murder, it is clear that she was detained for a while.
- At ground 5, the appellant argues that the Adjudicator did not deal with internal flight.
- At ground 6, the appellant wishes us to be aware that the objective material submitted on behalf of the Secretary of State shows police torture, extrajudicial killings and bribe taking. That may well be so, but it did not deter the appellant from approaching the police in her home area for protection. Internal relocation does not arise on that basis.
- Finally, the appellant submits that in all the circumstances, the Adjudicator's fact finding process is flawed and without due assessment of the evidence. It is clear that this is a challenge to the Adjudicator's find finding processes. Following CA, the Adjudicator is the fact finder and the Adjudicator's findings as challenged in the skeleton argument are all soundly based in the appellant's own evidence.
- We turn next to the question of internal flight, the only serious point of law raised in this appeal. Mr Buckley submitted that nothing in the present appeal would render it unduly harsh for the appellant to relocate to another Christian area within Nigeria. For the appellant, Mr Mayo submitted that she was a single lady who at the date she fled Nigeria had been recently widowed, and would need protection internationally on humanitarian grounds. The Tribunal observes that Nigeria has a population of 120 million people, and that there is a large Christian population and in particular a Catholic population.
- There is no evidence in this appeal that her problems were anything other than a local dispute as a result of her killing a local snake and accordingly, we concur with Mr Buckley's submission that there were no facts before the Adjudicator and are no facts before us today which would indicate that it was unduly harsh to expect a resourceful widowed single woman (who has been capable of coming to the other side of the world and beginning her life again) to take the much smaller step of relocating internally within Nigeria to an area where she will be out of range of the snake worshippers in her own village.
- For all of the above reasons, the appellant's appeal is dismissed.
Mrs J A J C Gleeson
Date: 04 March 2005
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