ECOWAS Court to deliver judgment on 1st July, 2020 in case filed by seven Nigerians alleging that constitutional provisions violated the country’s international obligations

Judgment was on Monday, 22nd June 2020 reserved for 1st July 2020 by the ECOWAS Court in a suit filed by seven Nigerians alleging that Section 221 of the country’s constitution which bars independent candidates from contesting for elective offices violated their right to participation in governance.

At the resumed hearing of the suit filed by Obinna Umeh and six others against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a panel of three judges of the Court led by its President, Justice Edward Asante Amoako adjourned judgment to that date after the adoption of the processes by the parties.

In suit no: ECW/CCJ/APP/48/18 the Applicants, Obinna Umeh, Kenneth Roberts, Goodluck Edafe, Dr. Matthew Oguche, Macauley S. William – Jumbo, Josephine E. Okeke (Mrs.) and Emmanuel Agada through their counsel, Barrister F.A Oguche approached the Court to challenge the ban on independent candidacy by that provision which required that those seeking elective offices must do so under the platform of a political party.

They averred that the provision, which amounted to the denial of their right to participation, was a violation of Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights.

The Applicants therefore sought the Court to declare that the Applicants, and indeed every citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is entitled to participate in the government of their country either directly or through freely elected representatives.

They also want the Court to declare that the pre-requisite of membership of a political party as condition for aspirations to elective positions under the Defendant’s 1999 Constitution (as amended) and with no provision whatsoever or approval for independent candidacy is an abridgement, curtailment and restriction of the right of participation enshrined in Articles 21, 13 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is undemocratic and an infringement on internationally guaranteed human rights.

In addition, they urged the Court to issue an order compelling the Defendant to pay the sum of N5 Million Naira, as exemplary damages for the wanton infringement of the fundamental rights of the Applicants and for the breach of the country’s international obligations to respect those rights.

However, Mr. T.D. Agbe Counsel to the Defendant argued that what the applicant is asking for is a constitutional amendment that is vested in the people of Nigeria through national and state assemblies and beyond the scope of the power of the Court.

He therefore urged the Court to dismiss the suit for lack of merit, affirming that the Defendant`s democratic setting allows for a multiple political parties and every qualified citizen is free in association with other citizens to register a political party and participate in any of the elective position.

He said the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has allowed every qualified person to participate in governance through periodic elections, stressing that the Constitution is in line with the ideology enshrined in Article 13 of the African Charter of Peoples and Human Rights.

Other judges on the panel include Justices Keikura Bangura and Januara Tavares Moreira Costa