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ECOWAS Court adjourns case on Freedom of Assembly and Association in Edo State

An NGO Faculty of Peace and 3 others have sued the Federal Republic of Nigeria in suit No: ECW/CCJ/APP/30/21 at the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The applicants are seeking an injunction restraining the Federal Government and component states or their agents or privies from issuing any ban notice, disturbing or interfering with the rights of any person or group of persons from any part of Nigeria from holding assembly or associating with themselves as a group or part of a group.

The applicant case is that the Edo State Government has in many occasions infringe on the right of the applicant to assemble and associate. It cited an instance where Edo State Government on 29th day of March 2021 denied the people of Edo State the right to gather and assemble themselves to protest against high cost of living viz, price of fuel, sachet water and cement and its link with monopoly.

According to the applicant, the restriction did not aid the ability of an assembly to take place within sight and sound of the target audience of its members. The applicants also cited the Edo State government banned of the gathering of members of Nigeria Women Society in May 2021. The Defendant in this case is the Federal Republic of Nigeria even though the allegation is directly concerning Edo State Government high handedness. This is because only member state of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) not sub nationals are subject to the jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court

According to the counsel to the applicant President Aigbokhan, Esq of FOI Counsel while addressing the court, argued that the right to assembly is a constitutional and fundamental right and restriction of these rights, limit the potential for a free public space and open democratic society with the consequence of hindering the operation of public engagement and participation. He reminded the court that the Edo State Government has just limited the definition of NGOs to those with registration certificate as against internationally accepted definition. 

The EOWAS Court heard the matter on 20th day of October 2021 and was adjourned to 24th day of February 2022 for judgment. The case was heard at 10:00hrs at Conference Hall of Special Representative of ECOWAS to Cote d’ivoire at 28/ Cocody Corniche Boulevard de France, Villa no.4 , Abidjan, Cote d’Ivioire

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