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Obey court orders, Falana tells Buhari, other ECOWAS leaders

Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to “comply with judgments and orders of municipal courts and regional tribunals in the interest of public accountability and political stability.”

The call was made by the lawyer during the “ECOWAS Consultative Meeting on Access to Justice and Respect for the Rule of Law” in Accra, Ghana. Mr. Falana traced “the lack of respect for court orders to prolonged years of military rule and the belief of African leaders that they are as powerful as the emperors and kings who ruled many communities in Africa before colonialism.”

According to Mr Falana, “The intervention of the President is a welcome development in view of the growing culture of impunity in Nigeria. But with respect to the President, it is not sufficient to recognise the court as a civilized forum for the amicable resolution of disputes in a democratic society. The aggrieved litigants require a firm assurance that the party leadership will not follow the bad example of the federal government by treating the judgments and orders of the court with contempt.”

Mr Falana said, “Having now embraced the rule of law, President Buhari ought to direct the State Security Service to release Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife from custody in line with the orders of Federal High Court of December 2, 2016. In the same vein, the orders of the Nigerian courts and the ECOWAS Court for the release of Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) on bail pending trial should be complied with without any further delay.”

Mr Falana’s paper read in part: “Other high-profile judgments that President Buhari must obey without further delay include at least four judgments obtained by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered.”

“The second judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, while the third judgment, also by Justice Idris, ordered President Buhari to act on reports of investigations into allegations of padding and stealing of some N481 billion from the 2016 budget by some principal officers of the National Assembly, and to ensure prosecution of indicted lawmakers.”

“The fourth judgement by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja also obtained by SERAP ordered the Nigerian authorities to provide free and quality education to all Nigerian children without discrimination.”

“Nigeria has a duty to show leadership by example in the region since President Mohammadu Buhari is the current Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Governments of the ECOWAS. Such leadership has just been demonstrated by the Nigerian leader who has been reported to have distanced himself from the decision of the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressive Congress (APC) to expel its aggrieved members who sued the party in court over their grievances against the outcome of the recently concluded primaries of the party.”

“President Buhari should equally show leadership in the region by ensuring that all judgments of the ECOWAS Court against Nigeria are fully and unconditionally obeyed.”

“The hostile disposition of African states to courts is essentially the same. African governments including Nigeria are yet to move away from the era of military and apartheid regimes when martial law was the order of the day. The rule of law is substituted for the rule of rulers. Not only are orders of courts disregarded, judges who rule against governments are harassed by security forces. The same attitude has been extended to regional and international courts.”

“Even though majority of African States have ratified the Rome Statute, the African Union (AU) recently attempted to pull Africa out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to prevent the Court from holding leaders accountable for gross human rights abuse, aggression, crimes against humanity and genocidal acts. The ICC has been accused of targeting African leaders notwithstanding that most cases of crimes against humanity were referred to the Prosecutor of the ICC by the governments of some African States.”

“Although the AU has come up with the Malabo Declaration aimed at clothing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights with criminal jurisdiction not a single member state has ratified the Declaration. African leaders are not prepared to respect human rights under the rule of law as only 9 out of the 54-member states of the African Union have made the Declaration accepting the competence of the African Court”.

“The African people should not be deceived by the attempt of the AU to cover up the grave crimes against humanity and gross violations of the human rights committed by some African leaders. Nigeria and other African governments should emulate the governments of Benin, Cote D’ivoire, Ghana, Mali and The Gambia that have empowered their citizens to access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights sitting in Arusha, Tanzania.”

“Notwithstanding the commitment of the member states of the ECOWAS to fight impunity by protecting human rights under the rule of law, compliance with decisions of the court by some of the member states has not been encouraging. The Governments of Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone must without further delay comply with the judgments of the ECOWAS court and their domestic courts.”

“The Nigerian government should emulate the government of The Gambia that has promoted accountability in all its ramifications. Apart from paying the damages awarded by the ECOWAS Court to two victims of human rights abuse, the government of The Gambia has returned to the ICC and instituted a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission to inquire into the gross human rights abuse that characterized the Yayah Jameh regime.”

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Nigeria contributes $710m to ECOWAS, more than 13 countries

Nigeria has contributed more money to the Economic Community of West African States than 13 other Members states put together in the last 12 years, statistics have shown.

Statistics on payment of the Community Levy obtained  showed that between 2003 and 2015, Nigeria paid $710, 497,352, equivalent to 480, 355,205 West Africa Units of Account.

The West Africa UA is the official nominal monetary unit of measure or currency used to represent the real value.

The document was presented by the ECOWAS Commission as part of the Status of the Community report during an Extra-Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament.

In the same period, 13 other countries contributed a cumulative amount of 697. 947 million dollars.

The countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal Sierra Leone and Togo.

Out of the 13 countries mentioned, Guinea Bissau contributed the least amount of  3, 107  million dollars followed by The Gambia with 11, 171 million dollars and Cabo Verde with 12, 879 million dollars.

Within the period, Sierra Leone contributed 19, 632 million; Liberia 29, 988 million dollars, Guinea 31, 101 million; Niger 37, 788 million, Togo $48, 961 and Cote d’Ivoire $54, 173 million.

The Benin Republic contributed a total of $76, 147 million; Mali paid $93, 538 million; Burkina Faso with $105, 278 million; while Senegal paid $174,177 million.

The highest paying country after Nigeria is Ghana which paid $327. 976 million within the same period.

According to the statistics, a total of $1, 736 billion was contributed within the period by all 15 member states, with Nigeria paying 40.9 per cent of the amount.

The national customs administrations of member states are responsible for “assessment and collection” of the levy and daily record “accounts of amounts received”.

However, the contributions by Nigeria is not equivalent to the weight it pulls in the sub-regional body, especially in the Parliament.

For instance, out of the 35 seats allocated to Nigeria in the Parliament, many of the representatives are usually absent during plenary.

At the plenary in May 2018, only four members out of 35 were present on the day Nigeria presented its Country Report.

Also, during its recent ongoing Second Ordinary Session, less than 10 were present for the aforementioned presentation.

The absenteeism by Nigerians also got the attention of the Bureau of Parliament and other members who expressed displeasure at the attitude of Nigerians to the business of parliament.

Some representatives from Nigeria also admitted that the attitude had become worrisome and needed to be addressed.

 

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ECOWAS single currency: Countries yet to meet macroeconomic criteria-…

President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS), Jean Claude Kassi Brou has disclosed that many member-states of the sub region have not met the macroeconomic convergence criteria required for the much touted single currency for the region.

Brou disclosed this while presenting the Community Work Programme at the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja. He noted that the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments have also reaffirmed the decision that was taken earlier to allow the countries which are ready to begin the process in 2020 and those not ready will be given time to join.

According to him, the Presidential Task Force set up by ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Governments to achieve a monetary union for the sub region would meet in December on the modalities to achieve the 2020 target for West Africa, which would promote economic integration.

He stated that the meeting will allow for a discussion on the progress of the roadmap for the single currency but specifically focus on the issue of the monetary policy framework harmonisation.

“They will also discuss the issues of the next regional central bank, the main logo for the single currency; these are very important issues that they will discuss early next month, ” Brou said.

The ECOWAS authority had approved the reduction of the macroeconomic convergence criteria from 11 (four primary and seven secondary) to six (three primary and three secondary).

The three primary criteria  being used are a budget deficit of not more than three per cent; average annual inflation of less than 10 per cent with a long term goal of not more than five per cent by 2019; and gross reserves that can finance at least three months of imports.

The three secondary convergence criteria that have been adopted by ECOWAS are public debt/Gross Domestic Product of not more than 70 per cent; central bank financing of budget deficit should not be more than 10 per cent of previous year’s tax revenue; and nominal exchange rate variation of plus or minus 10 per cent.

Brou also said a 3.4 per cent growth rate was projected for the ECOWAS region in 2019 against three per cent experienced in 2018, which was a significant progress, adding that six member-states recorded growth rates of more than six per cent in 2018. These are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Niger, Ghana and Senegal.

Furthermore, on the Common External Tariff (CET), he said the tariff was being implemented in all member states except Cabo Verde, which he noted a study to assess the impact was being carried out by its government.

 

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EU envoy wants end to gender-based violence in Nigeria

The European Union (EU) Ambassador to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ketil Karlson, has advocated an end to gender-based violence in Nigeria.

Speaking in Abuja after 16 days of activism against gender-based violence organised by the EU, Karlson stressed the need for more women and youth involvement in activities to tackle the challenge. He urged relevant stakeholders and authorities to engage in aggressive campaign and measures to put a stop to the menace, stressing that it was committed to ensuring that gender violence ends in the country through activism.

He explained that the event did not in any way suggest activism against the menace within the period in question but for the rest of time on earth.

“Our message is that gender-based violence must stop, and of course we have to say this now but we have to remember it for the rest of the year and for many more years to come because our daughters, wives and mothers don’t really deserve to experience violence,” he said.

The event, which was attended by the United States (U.S.) and Swedish ambassadors to Nigeria, Stuart Symington and Mrs. Inger Ultvedt, also presented an opportunity for some abused persons to share their experiences.

Dorothy Njemanze, 34 and a victim, survivor and founder of Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, said she had been raped for over 22 times in her lifetime.

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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.