DECISION OF THE ECOWAS COURT OF JUSTICE IN THE CASE AMB. ALI OCHENI AND 4 OTHERS AGAINST THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
The ECOWAS Court of Justice has delivered its decision on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, in the case between Amb. Ali Ocheni and four (4) others and the Federal Republic of Nigeria in relation to alleged violation of the Applicants’ human rights.
The Applicants, Amb. Ali Ocheni, Hajiya (Chief) Rekiya M. Abaji, Dr. Sebastine Abuh, Suleimane Akpa and Dr. Ojoachele Akor Felix, all Nigerian citizens invoked Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Articles 3, 4, 7, 13, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 6(1) 7, 9, 20 and 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as provisions of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and Elections as well as the African Union Declaration on Democracy and Elections.
They accused the Respondent State of violating their right to freedom of movement, right to freedom of expression and right of association.
The Applicants argued that the Respondent State failed to fulfill its international obligations by failing to protect the citizens of Kogi State who live in widespread insecurity. They criticized the State of Nigeria for its inaction regarding Kogi, a federated state, by refusing to take security measures to protect the Applicants and citizens. They added that they were living in fear and intimidation ahead of the upcoming gubernatorial elections in November 2023.
The Respondent State denied the Applicants’ allegations pointing out that election period is globally characterised by unrest. It contended that it was fully aware of the upcoming elections and has put in place security measures to protect the citizens. It argued that the Applicants were speculative. In addition, he challenged the Applicants’ capacity to bring this action before the Court and asked the Court to dismiss their application.
During the hearing on Friday, October 27, 2023, the Court heard the arguments of both parties. It granted the Respondent’s request for extension of time to file its defense. In addition, it granted the Applicants request to withdraw its application for default judgment. It also heard the parties on the Applicants’ application for interim measures and accelerated procedure and decided to give its ruling jointly with the judgment.
By the judgment it delivered on Tuesday 31st October, 2023, the Court ruled that it has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter arguing that the Applicants are individuals who in line with Article 10(d) of the Protocol, can potentially bring an action for the violation of their own human rights.
However, it ruled that the Application is inadmissible and consequently dismissed it on the grounds that, “for an application to be declared admissible, the Applicants must satisfy the victim status. In other words to be a victim necessitates the establishment of a link between the Applicant and the alleged violation of human rights; there must exist facts to show that the applicant has suffered a direct injury or loss traceable to the acts of the Respondent”.
It added that the present Application falls short of the ‘victims’ status within the context of Article 10(d) of the Supplementary Protocol. It therefore held that the Applicants as constituted in this Application have not established their capacity to institute this action.
Furthermore, It noted that from the many pleadings filed by the Applicants, no personal injury, harm or loss to these five (5) individual Applicants traceable to the Respondent violating the Applicants rights under Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 13 of the African Charter was alleged.
The panel of three (3) judges on the bench is composed of:
Hon. Justice Gberi-Bè Ouattara, Presiding
Hon. Justice Dupe Atoki, Judge Rapporteur
Hon Justice Ricardo Claúdio Monteiro Gonçalves, Member