JUDGMENT FIXED FOR JULY 3 IN SUIT BROUGHT BY TWO NGOS ALLEGING THAT THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT’S DELAY IN THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL ON INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY FOR ELECTIONS VIOLATED THEIR RIGHTS
The ECOWAS Court has fixed 3rd of July 2023 for judgment in a case brought by two Non-Governmental Organisations asking the Court to hold the Federal Republic of Nigeria responsible for the violation of their rights over the delay in the passage of the Bill that will allow independent candidates to contest elections.
At the hearing held on 9th of May 2023, Justice Dupe Atoki, presiding judge, announced the adjournment after noting that both parties had filed all their submissions/pleadings before the Court and that the lawyer representing the Nigerian government was absent during that session.
In the initiating application with suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/39/22 filed on 12th of September, 2022, two NGOs – The Incorporated Trustees of Prince & Princess Charles Offokaja Foundation, Nigeria, and The Incorporated Trustees of Prince & Princess Charles Offokaja Foundation, Switzerland, alleged the violation of their right to freedom of expression following the failure of the State Assemblies of the Federation to pass the required resolutions required for the passage of the bill within the timeline of the first week of August, 2022 promised by a senior government official.
Furthermore, the applicants recalled another public statement by the spokesperson of another high authority of the government in which he promised that the entire constitution amendment that would provide for such candidacy would be concluded by October 2022.
But the applicants said that they planned to undertake a publication based on the outcome of the process but that based on the noticed delay before the filing of this action, it was obvious that their right to receive information was under threat as the information was required to enable them undertake a legal analysis with implications for the proposed publication.
Relying on Articles 1, 9(1) and 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Articles 2 and 19(2) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, both NGOs which are involved in human rights promotion and publications, claimed that the Nigerian government bound itself to an obligation following public statements made by its senior officials on two separate occasions.
They told the Court that the public statement of an agent or a high authority of the State amounts to a unilateral act binding on the State, including the public statements on the approval of independent candidacy in Nigeria’s elections by first week of August 2022, and conclusion of the constitution amendment by October 2022.
They added that the government’s failure to meet its deadline violated their rights to freedom of expression as the NGOs involved in publication planned to publish reports on the effect of the approval process of independent candidacy bill by the State Houses of Assembly, the President of Nigeria and the National Assembly on the 2023 election.
They are asking the Court to declare, among others, that the State Houses of Assembly have the duty to reject or approve the constitution amendment bill proposed by the National Assembly on independent candidacy that has been with it since March 2022, and that the failure violated their right to freedom of expression.
They also urged the Court to compel the government to immediately implement independent candidacy for the 2023 elections and all future elections.
On the panel with justice Atoki were Justices Sengu Mohamed Koroma and Ricardo Cláudio Monteiro Gonçalves.