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NGOs take FG to ECOWAS Court over independent candidacy

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NGOs take FG to ECOWAS Court over independent candidacy

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has fixed July 3 for a case filed against Nigeria’s central government over the delay in the passage of the Bill on independent candidacy.

The case was instituted by two Non-Governmental Organisations who are asking the court to hold Nigeria responsible for the violation of their rights following the delay in the passage of the bill allowing independent candidates to contest elections.

At the hearing on May 9, presiding judge, Justice Dupe Atoki, announced the adjournment after noting that both parties had filed all their submissions before the court.

The lawyer representing the Nigerian government, however, was absent during the session.

Also on the panel are Justices Sengu Koroma and Ricardo Gonçalves.

It was reported that a bill on independent candidacy in the presidential, governorship, National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly, and Local Government Councils elections scaled through at the Senate on Feb. 28.

The initiating application via suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/39/22, on alleged violation of their right to freedom of expression, was filed on Sept. 12, 2022 by the two NGOs.

The filing followed the failure of the state assemblies of the federation to pass the required resolutions for the passage of the bill within the timeline of the first week of August 2022, as promised by a senior government official.

The NGOs are the Incorporated Trustees of Prince & Princess Charles Offokaja Foundation, Nigeria, and the Incorporated Trustees of Prince & Princess Charles Offokaja Foundation, Switzerland.

Furthermore, the applicants recalled another public statement by the spokesperson of another authority of the government, who assured Nigerians that the constitution amendment providing for such candidacy would be concluded by October 2022.

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Also, the applicants said they planned to undertake a publication based on the outcome of the process.

However, based on the noticed delay before filing their complaint, it was obvious that their right to receive information was under threat.

The applicants said the information was required to enable them undertake a legal analysis with implications for the proposed publication.

Relying on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, both NGOs claimed the Nigerian government bound itself to an obligation following public statements made by its senior officials on two separate occasions.

The NGOs are involved in human rights promotion and publications.

They also told the court that the public statement of an agent or a high authority of the state amounted to a unilateral act binding on the state.

This included 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 government’s failure to meet its deadline violated their rights to freedom of expression as the NGOs planned to publish reports on the effect of the approval process of the 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.

NGOs take FG to ECOWAS Court over independent candidacy

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