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ECOWAS parliament approaches regional court over Mali crisis

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Nigerians warn of danger of undemocratic alternatives
As the political crisis in Mali degenerates into a full military government, some stakeholders have warned of the danger of descending into undemocratic alternatives in Nigeria as a result of the rising state of anarchy and violence. As a way of expressing its displeasure over the development in Mali, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) yesterday announced its decision to expel the country from the regional body.

While ECOWAS head of states and government were meeting in Ghana to decide the fate of Mali, the head of military junta, Col. Assimi Goita effectively assumed leadership of the country’s transition government. To rub salt on the injury, Mali’s Supreme Court the same day, affirmed Goita’s leadership, fueling criticisms across the region.

Following the expulsion, the ECOWAS Parliament has now approached the Community Court of Justice for advice on whether members of the National Transitional Council of Mali elected to represent the country in the regional parliament should be sworn in. In suit no: ECW/CCJ/ADV: OPN/01/21, the Parliament is asking the Court to interpret Articles 18.1 (g) and 18.2 (a and b) of the Supplementary on the enhancement of the powers of the Parliament, which relate to the status of members nominated from the transitional parliaments from member states.

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A panel of three judges of the ECOWAS Court led by Hon. Justice Edward Amoako Asante will yesterday, May 31, 2021 began hearing the application titled  “Interpretation of Supplementary Act” and signed by the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis.

The request relates to a letter dated January 7, 2021 from the President of the Conseil National de Transition (CNT) of Mali, which serves as the country’s parliament, forwarding the list of the six members elected at the CNT’s plenary sitting on January 5, 2021 as the country’s representatives to the ECOWAS Parliament.

In the application dated March 29, 2021 the speaker acknowledged that the CNT was an organ of the transition Government of Mali, which had been recognised by the ECOWAS Community, African Union and the International Community. He stated that the CNT serves as an interim Parliament that would vote political, institutional, electoral and administrative reforms leading to the return to constitutional order as provided for in their Transitional Charter. He also argued that in conformity with the Supplementary Act relating to the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament, the new members had to be sworn in before taking office as members of the ECOWAS Parliament.

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He also stated that Article 18(a) of the Supplementary Act provided that representatives of ECOWAS Parliament “shall be elected by direct universal suffrage by the citizens of Member States.”

It is against this background that the Speaker is asking the court to determine and pronounce whether or not the members of CNT elected at a plenary sitting on January 2021 to represent Mali at the ECOWAS Parliament can be considered as ECOWAS Parliament Members and be sworn in. Other members of the panel are Hon. Justice Dupe Atoki and Hon. Justice January Costa.

Reacting to the development, Ngozi Olehi, a lawyer said it is fruitless to watch a country slide into political and economic failure before regional and/or international intervention is shown. According to him, it is worse if the only thing that can be done is suspension of the country from the body. Such suspension, he said, leaves the citizens to the mercy of the junta and the consequences of the aberration.

He said: “I know it bothers on the doctrine of sovereignty, but events in Mali, just as in Nigeria, where the citizens are helpless and abandoned to “democratic government” that is clueless with no credible agenda to stop insecurity and senseless bloodletting, the international community, be it ECOWAS, African Union (AU) or even the United Nations (UN) should step in even if it means asking the incumbent to resign.

“The doctrine of sovereignty should be revisited so that it should not be the basis for non-intervention when a government has shown lack of capacity to govern. Nigeria is an example. The suspension of Mali is useless.”

Former president of the Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu, who is a lawyer, believes that Nigeria is gravitating towards Malian experience. He explained that it might not be in the form of military insurrection and counter coups, but a revolution of the people.

His words: “I think that the Nigerian political situation is coming close; we are almost at the last bus stop before anarchy. The incidents of violence are no longer perpetuated against the poor and oppressed of this country, but members of the ruling elite are now targets. More fundamentally is the observation that institutions of government from police to military facilities and INEC offices across the country are now being touched.

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“That particular strategy of targeting institutions of government is a very dangerous way of de-legitimising the state itself and if you check the reaction from the leadership of these institutions, particularly the Nigerian police, you would see that the coercive forces are virtually being overwhelmed. If an Inspector General of Police would direct his men and officers to defend themselves against upholding the etiquettes of police operations as enshrined in their regulations, then it would seem that the institution is getting overwhelmed.”

The lawyer warned that carrying out the instruction of the IGP was resulting in heightened violence, butchery and massacre as being witnessed across the country, particularly in the Southeast at the moment. Ugwummadu insisted that the way to go was to constructively engage, persuade and re-orientate those who are disposed to violent approach.

But Dr. Odiyovwi Osusu, also a lawyer, said although Nigeria is at the precipice of anarchy, it would be difficult for military to take over the country as witnessed in Mali because of the mass retirement looming in the military occasioned by the appointment of the Chief of Army Staff. According to him, the situation in Mali is actually fallout of political instability. He prayed other African countries wont take a cue from the military junta in Mali.

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