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ECOWAS court restrains Nigeria over curb to peaceful protest

By Joseph Onyekwere (Lagos) and Oludare Richards (Abuja)
23 March 2022   |   4:04 am
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court sitting in Ghana has restrained the Federal Republic of Nigeria, its constituent states or agents from issuing any ban, disturbing or interfering with the rights of any person...

Tasks member states on enforcing judicial decisions
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court sitting in Ghana has restrained the Federal Republic of Nigeria, its constituent states or agents from issuing any ban, disturbing or interfering with the rights of any person or group of persons from any part of the country from holding peaceful protest.

A civil society organisation, Faculty of Peace, and three others filed the suit against the Federal Government, marked: ECW/CCJ/APP/30/21.

The applicants commenced the suit against the government for allowing its agents, namely: the Nigeria Police and Department of State Services to disrupt their protest.

In his judgment, delivered on March 21, 2022, at its first court sitting in Ghana, President of the Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, held that the state action banning the applicants’ peaceful assembly and procession infringed on their rights to assemble and associate as provided for in Article 10 and 11 of the African Charter, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Section 40 of the Constitution of 1999, Article 3,10, 11 and 17(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and Rule 94 (b) of the Guideline on Freedom of Assembly and Association.

The court also awarded key promoters of the protest – Comrades Marxist Kola Edokpayi, Osemu Ogbidi and Kelly Omokaro the sum of $15,000 as compensation for the unlawful denial of their right to protest.

The applicants had sued following a peaceful protest on March 28, 2021 to raise awareness on the hike in prices of fuel, sachet water and cement. The action was, however, disrupted by government agents.

THIS came as Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, urged Member States to take measures to enforce decisions of the Community Court of Justice for a stronger integration of the region.

He said this at the opening of the 11th external court session of the Court in Accra on Monday.

He regretted that the court’s best efforts at delivering on its mandate are being constrained by poor rate of enforcement, which stands at 30 per cent.

The chairman added: “Unless Member States comply with the judgments of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, it will be difficult to build public confidence in the court. I appeal to all Member States to ensure that they comply with their treaty obligations by serving and obeying judgments of the court.”