By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
An International Civil Group, Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA) has dragged President Bola Tínubu of Nigeria before the Economic Community of West African (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, invoking the Protocols of the Court to stop the planned military action against the Republic of Niger over coup plot.
The group in the suit instituted on its behalf by a Nigerian lawyer, Dr Oluwakayode Ajulo, is praying the Regional Court to invoke relevant ECOWAS treaties and international laws to stop the military invasion of Niger Republic being spearhead by the Nigerian Government.
The grouse of the civil group, among others, is that the planned military action or invasion will run foul of the obligations in the ECOWAS treaties and therefore amounting to illegality.
The suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/3/23 emphasized categorically that ECOWAS treaties prohibit aggression among member States.
Apart from the Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA), other plaintiffs in the matter are a former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of the Internal Affairs (NIIA), Professor Bola Akinterinwa and a Nigerian northern lawyer, Hamza Nuhu Dantani.
Defendants are ECOWAS, Authority of Heads of State & Government of ECOWAS, President of ECOWAS Mission, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Republic of Niger.
A military group led by General Abdourhamane Tchiani had on July 26 toppled the civilian and democratic government of President Mohammed Bazoun, who has since been clamped into what has been described as an “unlawful military detention.”
Although the three plaintiffs in the regional suit described the coup d’etat as most unfortunate, they however warned that Nigeria should not travel the dangerous road of military hostilities that may further escalate the crisis in the Niger Republic.
According to them, over 300,000 refugees, mainly Nigeria citizens, have already fled the Niger Republic adding that military action against Niger Republic would lead to breach of fundamental rights to life, right to dignity of human persons and liberty to life.
The plaintiffs therefore prayed the ECOWAS Court of Justice for a restraining order against any form of military action in Niger Republic that may undermine the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Niger Republic.
Besides the court action, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Dr Ajulo wrote a strongly-worded letter to President Tinubu, notifying him of pendency of the suit and invoking the Protocol of the ECOWAS Court on the need to respect and obey the rule of law as well as to refrain from doing that will militate against the subject matter.
The letter is entitled “Notification of Pendency of case before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice ; Call For Strict Adherence To The Protocol of the Honourable Court of the ECOWAS Commumity Court of Justice’.
It reads in part “We are Counsel to the Plaintiffs/Applicants in the above case before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice and it is on their firm and unequivocal instructions that we write.
“Sequel to the Resolution and several sanctions imposed by the ECOWAS in the aftermath of the unfortunate and unconstitutional takeover of the democratically elected Government of the Republic of Niger, we have lodged a Case before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in an application for reliefs as the proposed military intervention in the Republic of Niger would be tantamount to aggression between ECOWAS Member States.
“The intervention will specifically violate Articles 1, 5, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22 & 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Articles 1 (2), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 & 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Articles 1, 3, 22, 23 (3), 25 (1) & 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948; Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 of the Declaration on the Right to Development 1986; Articles 6, 15, 31, 63 & 64 of the Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States; Article 10 of the Supplementary Protocol (A/SP.1/01/05) amending the Protocol (A/P.I/7/91) relating to the Community Court of Justice and Articles 10 (c), 22, 26, 27, 28, 56 of the ECOWAS Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace– Keeping and Security 1999.
“The Case, an official copy of which has been duly served on your Excellency through the ECOWAS Secretariat, 101, Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro, Abuja, has invoked the jurisdiction of the International Court to consider conventions, treaties, Protocols and regulations to which your Excellency and the Federal Republic of Nigeria are signatories and which override the resolutions, sanctions, domestic law and practices and which the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has been called upon to declare illegal. Another copy of the Case is attached for your informed action.
“We wish to further draw your attention to Article 22(2) of the Protocol on the Community Court of Justice which mandates that “When a dispute is brought before the Court, Member states or institutions of the Community shall refrain from any action likely to aggravate or militate against its settlement.
“In the Case before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Authority of Heads of State and Government (of which your Excellency is the Chairman), President, ECOWAS Commission, The Federal Republic of Nigeria (of which your Excellency is the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces) have been sued as sovereign legal representatives of respective institutions including the Republic of Niger.
“It is your Excellency’s sacred duty as the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS and the President and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of Federal Republic of Nigeria under your hand to bring the institution of the Case before ECOWAS Community Court of Justice to the attention of the other Defendants and to insist, particularly in your Excellences’ subsequent meetings, that the Defendants refrain from taking any action in respect of the subject matter pending the determination of the case, in view of your Excellency and Nigeria’s protocol obligation under the Article above quoted.
“Your Excellency, it is our firm confidence that by your enviable knowledge of high international standard of due adherence to the rule of law and respect for the supranational judicial process obtainable in a Case of this nature, we need not further stress the need to ensure that all the Defendants concerned maintain the status quo presently obtaining, and restrain themselves from taking any step susceptible to being regarded by the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice and international Community as prejudicial to the interest of our client or any of the parties in court.
“Your Excellency would agree with us that as the law stands presently, the Resolution on proposed military actions be discontinued pending the determination of the Case by the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria and other Defendants have never been known to confront the international judicial system nor subject themselves to international ridicule and is beyond mischievously foisting a fait accompli on an International Court to which charter or protocol she is a High Contracting party.
“It is without any reservation that we proceed on the common ground that your Excellency would use your good offices as the Chairman, Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS and President & Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to adhere and advise compliance on the part of the afore-listed defendants.
“While thanking you for your adherence to the rule of law, please accept the assurance of our warmest professional regards”, the letter stated