ECOWAS Court rejects suit by Yoruba nation agitators

March 15, 2023

– muslim-worldview with agency report

ECOWAS Court of Justice

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has dismissed a suit by four people seeking self-determination for the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

The four are Risqat Badmus, Ademola Faleti, Yemisi Fadahunsi-Ogunlana and Adigun Makanjuola, all members of the Coalition of Yoruba Interest Group (CYIG).

In a judgement, a three-member panel of the court held that the four individuals lacked the necessary capacity to sue for themselves and on behalf of the Yoruba nation.

In the lead judgment by Justice Dupe Atoki held that as individuals, the applicants failed to prove their ability to act as bearers of the right to self-determination ascribed to the Yoruba people and relied on the definition of the African Commission of the concept of a people as a group of persons “bound together by their historical, traditional, racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious, ideological, geographical, economic identities and affinities.”

Justice Atoki found that the four applicants did not qualify to be the bearers or holders of such rights and declared that they did not have the capacity to sue the Respondent State for themselves.

The judge held that the applicants failed to exhibit their capacity to represent the Yoruba people, for whom the action was instituted, noting that in cases of right to self-determination, “a representative action is the appropriate and indeed the most practicable option in seeking relief for violation of this right.”

She added that for a representative action initiated by an individual to succeed, the presentation of an authority to act from the alleged victim(s) is required, adding that no such evidence of authority given by the Yoruba nation was provided by the applicants and subsequently declared the application inadmissible.

According to a statement by the court’s media unit, the judgment was delivered on March 13 on the suit marked: ECW/CCJ/APP/08/22.

Other members of the panel are Justices Edward Amoako Asante (presiding) and Gberi-Bè Ouattara.

Badmus, Faleti, Fadahunsi-Ogunlana and Makanjuola had sued the Federal Republic of Nigeria, seeking a declaration by the court to activate their rights to self-determination as provided for under Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Articles 3, 4, 7 and 18 of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of the Indigenous People.

The applicants, who said they also belong to the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS) said they raised a petition titled Constitutional Force Majeure Proclamation and gave the respondent a 90-day ultimatum to respond.

They argued that Nigeria was constituted in 1914 by the British Government without taking into account the social, cultural, religious and ethnic configuration of the country.

They added that since its independence in 1960 which was supposed to be based on true federalism, Nigeria has not been able to forge a common interest that will ensure the development of all the federating units. They alleged that the Northern States set the precedence for their action in 2000 when they adopted the Sharia Law, de facto ceding from Nigeria.

They argued that the Constitutional Force Majeure Proclamation, published in newspapers, was an opportunity for the respondent to set the country on the path of better governance and that by choosing not to reply to their petition, Nigeria acknowledged the inadequacy of the 1999 Constitution and its inability to administer power over its territory, therefore opening the door for self-determination for the Yoruba.

The applicants prayed to the court to determine if the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 was still operable following the deadline they gave the Federal Government in the Constitutional Force Majeure proclamation.

They also urged the court to determine if the new legislation, laws, directives, and decrees were still operational within their (applicants’) territories since the expiration of the proclamation.

The applicants equally urged the court to determine the possibility of self-determination for the territories in Yorubaland.

Alternatively, they urged to order the Nigerian government to organize a referendum giving the opportunity to the Applicants’ land to exit the Respondent’s territory.

In its counter-arguments, the Federal Republic of Nigeria contended that the applicants sought to threaten the sovereignty and autonomy of the country and were invoking “the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court to determine the validity of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999”.

It argued that the country is a federation, observing the rule of law and that the applicants did not have the authority to determine the efficacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The respondent further argued that the case has nothing to do with human rights violation, but an attempt to upturn the country’s Constitution which is not within the jurisdiction of the court.

It contended that the applicants’ publication of the Constitutional Force Majeure Proclamation in a newspaper did not amount to a bill of the National Assembly which has the sole power to amend any perceived lacuna in the Constitution.

The respondent insisted that Nigeria gained independence as a unified and indivisible state in 1960 which the ECOWAS Court of Justice has no power to dissolve.

It then prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was mainly based on individual opinions, speculations and insinuations.

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