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ECOWAS Court Bars NBC from Censoring Political Broadcast

 The Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Court of Justice has barred the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from censorship of political programmes by broadcasting stations across the country.

The Court’s delivered this judgment on Tuesday, 11th December,2018 in Abuja.This comes nearly three years after a Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner, Mr. Festus Oguche, and Crownfield Solicitors, dragged the NBC before the community court, challenging what the NBC called “Additional Regulations for Live Political Broadcast.”

The said regulation dated May 30, 2014, was contained in a letter to all broadcasting stations across the country, directing that it must be notified by broadcasting stations in writing, at least 24 hours, before a live transmission of a political programme.

Delivering its judgment in the matter, the three- man panel led by the ECOWAS Court of Justice President, Justice Edward Asante, upheld all the seven -point declarations sought by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the suit had sought for “an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the Federal Government, its agencies, servants and proxies from further doing anything, either by way of official policy, directive, instruction and/or investigation that will in anyway impede against the existence and operations of free press in a democratic society, which is guaranteed as fundamental freedom”.

The court held that the action of the defendant in directing that all live political broadcasts by broadcasting stations in Nigeria be referred to it was tantamount to censorship of free press and contrary to the fundamental freedom enshrined and guaranteed under African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

The court also declared that the NBC’s directive was against the provisions of the fundamental freedom enshrined and guaranteed under Sections 22 and 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The court reportedly stated that the National Broadcasting Commission was reckless to have issued such instruction to broadcasting stations and subsequently ordered that the NBC make a retraction of the May 2014 directive in a letter to all the broadcasting stations in the country and publish same in national newspapers.

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Nigeria assures ECOWAS, UN a credible 2019 Polls.

  The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama,has assured the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations election monitoring team of credible elections in 2019 during the 41st Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council which held in Abuja on Thursday,the 13th November.

Onyeama, who is also the Chairman of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, commended several member states in the region on efforts made in the various political, constitutional and security sector reforms to improve democracy.

“We welcome the positive developments in several West African countries including steps being taken to promote human rights and encourage national stakeholders to continue to engage in dialogue in the spirit of tolerance and inclusivity.

“To this end, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured the ECOWAS/UN team on the election monitoring in Nigeria that his government will organise a credible election in 2019,” he said.

The minister noted that security challenges were a source of “grave” concern despite successes recorded. He added that security and sustainability could only be achieved through the promotion of good governance and the adoption of liberal policies that would enhance greater economic cooperation in the region.

He further assured the audience of continued efforts by the ECOWAS to sustain peace in the region.

“On the political front, we will continue to accompany Guinea Bissau to ensure the conformity and the full implementation of the Conakry Accord as well as a support for the successful conduct of parliamentary presidential election in 2019.

“Furthermore, positive strides have been attained towards the resolution of the political crisis in Togo. ECOWAS will continue to support the government of The Gambia for successful transition programme,” he said.

 

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ECOWAS COURT REFUSES MOTION FOR PROVISIONAL MEASURE BROUGHT BY…

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has denied an application for interim measures filed by three justices of the High Court of Ghana in which they asked for an order suspending an ongoing disciplinary procedure against them by the government of Ghana until the determination of their case against the government with the Court.

The court in refusing to grant the order, a panel of three judges presided over by Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara said the Court could not establish the grounds for urgency or the irreparable loss that could be suffered by the Applicants if the motion was denied.

The Court therefore adjourned the suit to 23rd of January, 2019 for substantive hearing.

In suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/42/16 filed by Justices Paul Uuter Dery, Mustapha Habib Logoh and Gilbert Ayisi Addo, they said the motion has become urgent because the government has taken three administrative steps, including requesting them to appear before a disciplinary committee, despite the 25th May 2018 order of the ECOWAS Court urging the government to suspend further action on the matter until the ruling on the motion.

In the suit filed by their Counsel, Mr Nii Kpakpo Samoa Addo, the Applicants alleged the violation of their fundamental human rights by the government of Ghana following the suspension of some of their allowances and the payment of half of their salary because of an ongoing disciplinary procedure against them initiated by the country’s judicial council.

The action of the Judicial Council of Ghana is on account of a petition to the President of the Republic of Ghana based on an investigative report by a journalist, Tiger Eye PI on the 10th September seeking their removal from office on grounds of audio-visual evidence and transcripts, various discussions and other acts that allegedly took place between the petitioner, the judges concerned and court staff which the petitioner produced in support of the petition as evidence.

The Applicants maintained that they challenged the petition by instituting various actions in the courts, but that the Supreme Court of Ghana while agreeing with the Applicants that the petitioner is not a company registered in accordance with the laws of Ghana as it claimed, went ahead to endorse the decisions of the judicial Council.

They therefore averred that the state of Ghana has violated their rights to fair hearing and administrative justice, equality before the law and freedom from discrimination, privacy and work including the action of the Council in paying  them half of their monthly salaries, the suspension of their allowances  and the constitution of a panel to investigate them.

They therefore, affirmed that these actions constituted an attempt by the State of Ghana to unlawfully and unfairly deprive them of their employment and right to work. They therefore urged the Court to issue the following orders: An order prohibiting the State of Ghana from continuing with the impeachment and investigation of the Applicants; an order asking Ghana to pay with interests the salaries and allowances of the Applicants unlawfully suspended since January 2016 as well as the payment of compensatory damages and costs of legal fees on full indemnity basis.

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ECOWAS COURT SET 11th DECEMBER 2018 TO DELIVER JUDGMENTS…

altThe ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has fixed 11th December 2018 to deliver the rescheduled judgments in two cases brought by Nigerians alleging the violation of their human rights by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

One of the two suits was filed by Chief Ambrose Osuan for himself and the Osuan family, in which they alleged the ‘sustained violation of their civil, social and economic rights’ over the forceful acquisition of the family’s ancestral land by the colonial government and its conversion initially into an European Reservation Area and later into a Government Reservation Area by the Nigerian and Edo State governments without compensation to the family.

At the last hearing of the case by a three member panel of the new college of judges on the 8th of November 2018, the parties had adopted their written and oral procedures although the presiding Judge, Honorable President Edward Asante, had granted any party willing to submit written addresses until the end of November 2018 to do so.

The panel also gave both parties till the end of November 2018 to submit written addresses if any of the parties so desired. With His Lordship on the panel were Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara, and Keikura Bangura.

In suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/25/16 they asked for compensation in the sum of 3 billion (three billion) US dollars from the government for the violation of the relevant international legal instruments and a declaration that the actions of the defendants is ‘unlawful and a violation of their fundamental rights.’

In the second suit no.ECW/CCJ/APP/10/15, Fetus Ogwuche and another, both of who are human rights lawyers involved in human rights advocacy and advancement of democracy and good governance claimed that a letter titled “Additional Regulation for Live Broadcasts” sent to all broadcasting firms in Nigeria by the National Broadcasting Commission violated the right to freedom of press.

In the said letter, the National Broadcasting Commission, the regulatory body for broadcasts in the country, directed all broadcasting stations to notify it at least 48 hours before transmission of live broadcast; conform with the provisions of the Code for such broadcasts as it affects political broadcasts and take responsibility for its broadcast programmes.

The plaintiffs urged the Court to order the Nigerian Government to withdraw the letter which they claimed threatens to censor all broadcast materials with the threat of the withdrawal of broadcast licenses for infractions.

Honorable Justices Edward Asante, Dupe Atoki, and Januaria Moreira Costa were on the panel.

In the third suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/26/13 filed by Registered Trustees of Jama’a Foundation and three others against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Court also fixed judgment for the middle of December after both parties adopted their processes and urged the Court to deliver its judgment.

The case was heard by Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara (presiding), Dupe Atoki, and Keikura Bangura.

In the initiating application filed by the counsel in the case, the plaintiffs claimed they are victims of sustained violations of their rights to life, security, dignity of the human person and equal protection before the law.

The plaintiffs, who are predominantly Muslims of Hausa/Fulani ethnic origin domiciled in southern part of Kaduna State in Nigeria, alleged they were affected by the ethno-religious crisis of 18th and 19th April 2011 that left over 800 people dead and several others displaced.

They are seeking orders of the Court directing the defendant to ensure the protection of the plaintiffs; the establishment of a military base within their locality; the implementation of the recommendations of the report an investigative panel known as Sheik Lemu panel as it affects them.

They also asked for the payment of monetary compensation in the amount of N105, 066,204,016 (One Hundred and Five Billion, Sixty-Six Million, Two Hundred and Four Thousand, and Sixteen Naira).

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Benue Killings: ECOWAS court postpones judgment

The Court of Justice for the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has postponed judgement in a fundamental rights case brought before it by indigenes of Benue State, Nigeria.

The Indigenes including a Catholic priest, Solomon Nfa, have asked the court to order the Nigerian government to pay them N1 trillion, for their losses in the series of killings recorded under the current administration.

The case was brought against President Muhammadu Buhari, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai.

Other named applicants in the suit are Joseph Dooga, Sam Abah, David Iordaah, Ochepo Yakubu and Terese Tange.

According to the application, the indigenes alleged outright neglect by Mr Buhari’s administration and accused the military of compromising its constitutional role of protecting the people. The indigenes likened the killings in their state to an attempted genocide and accused the federal government and the military of ‘watching’, while Benue communities were attacked by the herdsmen.

The ECOWAS court had resolved to deliver judgement in the matter since March, but postponed the judgement date twice, before beginning the annual vacation in July.

The court stated that the expected judgement could not be delivered because the panel of judges attending to the matter had resigned.

A counsel for the plaintiff, Vembe Terfa, also asked the court for time to submit his final addresses.

Subsequently, the court decided to return in December to deliver the judgement in the matter.

Although the precise date in December was not stated, the court said it would reconvene in the middle of next month.

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ECOWAS, Red Cross move to protect civilians during conflicts

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have validated an action plan on the implementation of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) 2019-2023 at a consultative meeting in Abuja.

The move seeks to ensure that globally accepted laws are observed during armed conflict in West Africa, thereby protecting the fundamental human rights of the citizens.

Consequently, information is to be disseminated to security agencies and armed forces of member states as well as sensitizing civil society and non-governmental organizations, the judiciary and also including the laws in the curricula of schools.

Addressing the participants at the weekend, the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, stated that the action had become imperative in view of the catastrophic effects of conflicts in the sub-region.

She noted that the validation of the plan of action and its implementation would help in achieving the human security vision of the commission as captured in the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework.

Jagne informed the participants that the document would be presented to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers for adoption and onward transmission to the Authority of Heads of States and Government for approval.
“The Plan of Action will serve as a basis for political and legal accountability for all of West Africa,” she said.

Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, Ambassador Babatunde Nurudeen, highlighted the key components of the policy, including protection of children, eradication of sexual violence, migration and welfare of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Others are protection of health care and Red Cross emblem as well as counter-terrorism and arms control.

The Head of the ICRC delegation to ECOWAS, Eloi Fillion, reaffirmed the commitment his organisation to providing technical assistance to member states.

Similarly, the representative of the Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Udo Oyi, pledged support to the implementation of the document.

He noted that though the nation was contending with cases of terrorism, it is, however, committed to respect for human rights.

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ECOWAS delegation visits IGP, demands free, fair polls in…

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Ahead of the 2019 general elections, a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stressed the need for the Nigeria Police to provide the enabling  security environment for a hitch free polls.

The delegation, led by Mr Mohammed Konte, on a courtesy visit to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, said ECOWAS will play its role to ensure free and fair polls.

Konte, told the IGP, that they were at the police force headquarters on a fact finding mission on the readiness of the police for the upcoming elections, even as he commended the police on its efforts at achieving and sustaining peace in the country.

Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, who made this known in a statement, said: “The Inspector General of Police welcomed the ECOWAS delegation and express his delight to have them at the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters.

He also acquainted the delegation with the administration of the force, the strength and spread of the Nigeria Police Force across the country.

“The IGP equally briefed the delegation on the readiness of the police to ensure a secure environment for a free and fair 2019 general elections in the country.

“In his remarks, the leader of the ECOWAS delegation, Konte, lauded the frantic efforts and giant strides achieved by the police in sustaining peace in Nigeria. While making further comments during the visit, Konte stressed the importance of election security and the utmost need for a peaceful 2019 General Elections in Nigeria, assuring that ECOWAS will play its roles to ensure that this is achieved.

“In his final remarks, the IGP thanked the ECOWAS delegation for the visit and their supports to the Nigeria Police Force. He assured them that the Force would not relent in ensuring that peace reign supreme in Nigeria, and the election security achievements recorded in the States Governorship Elections held recently in some part of the Country are improved upon in the upcoming 2019 General Election”.

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Stakeholders seek review of ECOWAS transhumance regulations

Some Stakeholders have called for the review of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement of persons, goods and animals. The call was made during the consultative security meeting on herders/farmers crisis at the multipurpose hall of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Jalingo, Taraba State which was held on the 11th November,2018..

Seeking permanent solutions to herders/farmers upheaval in the state, the stakeholders unanimously agreed that ECOWAS transhumance regulations approved in 2003 “is not the problem, but absence of movement control structures in the country.”Led by the secretary of the committee on herders/farmers crisis, Andre Akwasari, they opined that cases involving grazers and farmers should not be swept under the carpet.

They suggested strengthening of the peace and reconciliation committee in the state, as well as employment of advisers on farming and livestock in every council of the state.

 

According to them, all persons indicted in herders/farmers unrests should be arrested and prosecuted.Optimistic that government’s dream of ensuring peace is achievable, they called on the government to fashion out ways of halting arms proliferation, which they agreed was brought about by distrust and self-defence.

They urged state security operatives to collaborate with state governments in selection and training of livestock marshals for successful implementation of the ranching laws.

“Politicians should also stop the game of winner-takes-all instead of governance for all,” they advised, while urging government to strengthen the capacity of traditional rulers, especially in the areas of conflict mediation “by holding them accountable.” This, they believe, will go a long way in uniting farmers and grazers.

The meeting, which brought together traditional rulers, farmers, grazers, opinion leaders, among others, pleaded with the state governor to create “a structure for direct interface with stakeholders with genuine information or seeking clarification.”

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ECOWAS Ministers of Finance approve draft Supplementary Act on…

 

A Draft Supplementary Act on Community Rules of Origin and procedures applicable to products originating in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been approved by the Ministers of Finance from ECOWAS Member States.

The final Report of their meeting which concluded on the 2nd of November 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria, stated that the draft supplementary Act was approved, subject to rephrasing its Article 26 to ensure that companies which already benefit from tariff preference under the old protocol do not lose it with the coming into force of the new text.

Also approved is the draft Supplementary Act on Mutual Assistance and cooperation between customs administrations of ECOWAS member states and collaboration between them and ECOWAS Commission on customs matters.

In addition to the draft regulation on the Change of Product Category in the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET), the Ministers approved the draft Supplementary Act adopting Community Rules for the Elimination of Double Taxation with Respect to taxes on Income, Capital and Inheritance as well as the Prevention of Tax Evasion and Avoidance within the ECOWAS Member States.

While approving the draft Act, the Ministers invited the ECOWAS Commission to ensure that the provisions of subsequent implementing regulations address the specific concerns raised during the meeting.

The concerns has to do mainly with the provision in the implementing legislation for a monitoring and evaluation mechanism as well as the provisions to combat unfair tax competition between Member States.

Even though the Ministers approved the draft Directive on Mutual Administrative Assistance on Tax Matters in Member States, they however, decided to postpone the consideration of the draft Directive on the establishment of a legal framework for the implementation of a tracking, tracing and tax verification system of manufactured or imported tobacco products in ECOWAS Member States.

This followed a request from the private sector that they be allowed time to make contributions to the draft text.

During the meeting, presentations were made on the Status of implementation of the recommendations of the 3rd meeting of ECOWAS Ministers of Finance, the Report of the 4th meeting of Directors General of Customs, the 61st and 62ndmeetings of the Technical Committee on Trade, Customs and Free Movement of Persons, as well as the Directive on the establishment of a legal framework for the implementation of a tracking, tracing and tax verification system of manufactured or imported tobacco products in ECOWAS Member States.

On the strength of the progress made, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Finance Mrs Halima Ahmed, entreated the Ministers on the timely remittance of Community levy that is collected directly and domiciled in the ECOWAS account maintained in the various Member States. She also called for a rigorous application of the tax base.

The Ministers of Finance acknowledged the status of implementation of recommendations of its last meeting as presented, and thanked the Commission for implementing all the recommendations.

While bringing the meeting to a close, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, M. Tèi Konzi. Thanked the Ministers for approving the draft texts submitted to them.

On behalf of the Chair of the meeting and Nigeria’s minister of Finance Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, the Minister for Budget of Niger Republic, Mr Jalloud Hamat also thanked his colleagues for their contributions and expressed the hope that the texts approved would contribute to the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs union.

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President Jean Claude Kassi Brou calls for increased Cooperation…

The President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Jean-Claude Kassi Brou has called for increased cooperation with the government of the United States of America in the bid to ensure political stability, peace, security and economic development in the West Africa.

He made this call while receiving the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy and the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington during a courtesy visit at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria on 9thNovember 2018.

While highlighting the need for the US to sustain its global role and influence given its strategic importance to West Africa, President Brou briefed the US delegation about ECOWAS interventions in the political affairs of Member States such as the peaceful transition of power in the Gambia and its initiatives to ensure peace and security in countries such as Mali, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Speaking about the Commission’s political intervention in Togo, President Brou stated that ECOWAS is working to ensure that Togo reviews its constitution in line with the regional standards which stipulates that there should be a limit of two terms for Presidents.

He also noted the importance of the upcoming elections in Nigeria and Senegal, stressing the need for them to be credible and peaceful as they are very import to the stability of the region.

President Brou also informed the US delegation of the Commission’s commitment to improve inter regional trade which currently stands at 15% for formal trade and its steps to provide assistance for Member States in order to arrive at a common regional position on the African Continental free Trade Area.

On his part, Mr. Tibor Nagy stated that indeed ECOWAS has made giant strides in the political affairs of its Member States and described the West African bloc as an example which other Regional Economic Communities should emulate.

He reiterated the commitment of the United States to support initiatives that will create a conducive environment for foreign investments to thrive in West Africa.

He stated that the United States through its International Development Finance Corporation to the tune of $60 billion will assist developing countries improve their infrastructure and economies.

Also in attendance of the meeting were the Commission’s Vice President Madam Finda Koroma, the Commissioner for Finance Mrs. Halima Ahmed and the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security General Francis Béhanzin.