By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
A Port Harcourt-based constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Chief Festus Oguche and 24 other lawyers have jointly dragged Nigerian government and those of 14 other African nations before the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, otherwise known as ECOWAS Court.
The application No. ECW/CCJ/APP/33/23 and filed on August 21, was brought pursuant to Articles iii and iv of the Supplementary Protocol amending the Protocol relating to the Community Court of Justice; Articles ii of the Protocol of the Community Court of Justice and Article 33 of the Rules of the Community Court of Justice.
The plaintiffs submitted that the declaration of the defendants, who are member countries of ECOWAS to apply forceful means in uprooting the subsisting government in Niger Republic and the implications of that measure on the human rights of the people of Niger and their surrounding neigbours such as Nigeria, Chad and Burkina Faso and Nigeria, formed the subject matter of the legal action.
They further held that the ensuring killings, deaths and humanitarian conditions as well as human rights violations that will engulf the entire African Sub-Region, which will result to untold hardships of the people and members of the Economic Community were equally considered as part of the reasons for the suit.
“The imperatives for the intervention of the court to abate the incidence of the unlawfulness of the circumstances of the planned invasion of Niger Republic by the defendants, which is to serve no other purpose but to undermine fundamental rights and escalate the inhuman conditions and a possible degradation of humanity in the sub region and the need for the protection, preservation and enforcement of fundamental rights, also comes into focus.
“The recognition and observance of the rules and terms of the Revised Treaty adopted in 1991 and ratified in 1993 for economic and social development, and for the promotion of harmonious existence free from crisis and conflict equally forms the pith and substance of this action.
“The recognition and adherence of the fundamental principles of ECOWAS adopted in Abuja on July 6, 1991, for the maintenance of good regional peace, stability and security through the promotion and strengthening of good neighourliness, peaceful settlement of dispute among member states for a peaceful environment, recognition, promotion and protection of human and people’s rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter and prohibition of the use of force in all engagements among members state, also calls for consideration in this adjudication.”
The plaintiffs further insisted that the proposed action plan to invade Niger Republic on the purported action to restore democracy in the country will directly culminate to denial of rights freedom, equality, justice and dignity and ultimately stall the promotion and protection of human rights in vast areas that are likely to be affected by the unlawful engagement, and a crisis that could reverberate across the region and possibly expand to an intractable warfare that transcend regional boundaries.
They also filed the suit on relying on the grounds that the defendants are signatory to the Revised Treaty Establishing Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) dated July 24, 1993, and the Protocol of the Community Court of Justice.
“The defendants are signatory to the Supplementary Protocol amending the protocol relating to the Community Court of Justice. The planned invasion was received with wild protests by the wider population of Niger Republic citizens, resulting to further threats from Niger Republic, harassment, intimation against the citizens of the countries that are planning the invasion.”
The plaintiffs therefore ask the court for Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants either by themselves, their agents, servants and their privies from the action contemplated upon their deliberations for military action by the deployment of a standby force to reinstate the ousted president of Niger and for the restoration of democracy to the country, same having the likelihood of causing loss of lives destruction of properties, displacement of populations creation of serious humanitarian conditions of pain, deprivation and sufferings and pogroms and genocides and all manner of degradations on the lives of the plaintiffs and their families and the entire citizens of the member states of the ECOWAS community.
They are also asking order of court compelling the defendants to engage in civil and diplomatic measures including dialogues, arbitration and persuasions to resolve the political impasse in Niger Republic, in the course of which the rights of the people to self-determination must be recognized as the guiding light and principle of the measures to be taken and a Perpetual Injunction restraining the defendants from engaging their military forces and troops unlawfully to intervene in sister states, putting lives and properties in danger amidst the possibility of heavy collateral damage and casualties in the name of protection and propagation of constitutional and democratic values, and traditions.
In addition, the plaintiffs are seeking declarations of the court that the plaintiffs are imbued and entitled to the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and the defendants have a duty to recognize the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in the said Charter having undertaken to adopt measures to give effect to them; that the action of invading and, or use of force in the quest of the defendants to reinstate the ousted president of Niger Republic and restore democratic governance in the country will result to the loss of human lives, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment on the parts of the plaintiffs, peace loving citizens of Niger Republic and the citizens of the entire membership of the ECOWAS community.
They also sought a declaration that the plaintiffs and indeed, the entire citizenry of the membership of the ECOWAS community represented by the defendants are entitled to the respect for and preservation of their lives, and the defendants have a duty to protect the lives of every citizen of its members and refrain from taking action initiative on memberships that threaten their rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights; that the defendants have no mandate or authority in any manner whatsoever to embark on the initiative of deploying their individual troops in the purported game of a standby force, to intervene in the affairs of another member country, in the guise of restoration of democracy in a manner that threatens the lives and fundamental rights of community citizens, without the collaboration or approval of the people constituting the community directly through a plebiscite or referendum as a symbol of their popular participation under Article 13 of the African Charter and that the proposed initiative by the defendants to invade or make a forced military incursion into the Republic of Niger under the guise of restoration of democracy is a violation of Article 20 of the African Charter pertaining to the unquestionable and inalienable rights of the people of the Republic of Niger to self-determination, and to free themselves from the vestiges of colonialism, oppression and the bonds.
The plaintiffs are also seeking court’s declaration that the defendants have the duty and international responsibility to provide assistance to the people of Niger Republic in their current struggle against foreign domination, and not resort to their arsenals of war to aid and give bulwark to such domination of domination in the name of pursuit for the restoration of democracy.
No date has been fixed for hearing.