Independent candidacy: ECOWAS Court to rule in suit against Nigeria

The ECOWAS Court has fixed July 3, 2023 for judgment in a case brought by two non-governmental organisations against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The NGOs want the government held responsible for the violation of their rights over the delay in the passage of the bill that will allow independent candidates to contest elections.

They are Incorporated Trustees of Prince & Princess Charles Offokaja Foundation (Nigeria), and Incorporated Trustees of Prince & Princess Charles Offokaja Foundation (Switzerland). At the hearing this week, Justice Dupe Atoki announced the adjournment after noting that both parties had filed all their submissions/pleadings.

The lawyer representing the Nigerian government was absent during the session; it is unclear why the counsel failed to show up. The NGOs, in suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/39/22 filed on September 12, 2022, alleged the violation of their right to freedom of expression.

They said State Assemblies failed to achieve resolutions required for the passage of the bill within the timeline, August 2022, as promised by a senior government official.

The applicants further recalled another statement by a government spokesperson who assured the constitution amendment would give way for independent candidates.

The suit relied 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.

The NGOs, involved in human rights promotion and publications, insist Nigeria has an obligation following documented statements made by its officials.

The litigants want the ECOWAS Court to declare that State Assemblies as a body that have the duty to reject or approve the constitution amendment.

The bill proposed on independent candidacy, proposed by the National Assembly, has been with the Houses of Assembly since March 2022.

The organisations also prayed the court to direct the Nigerian government to immediately implement independent candidacy for all future elections.

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