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Freedom to Protest: ECOWAS Court restrains Nigeria Government and awards 15, 000 USD to 3 Edo based activists

The ECOWAS Court sitting in Ghana has restrained the Federal Republic of Nigeria or its component states or agents 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 peaceful protest. The suit was filed by Faculty of Peace and 3 others against the Federal Republic of Nigeria in suit No: ECW/CCJ/APP/30/21. The applicants commence a suit against the government for allowing its agents namely the Nigeria Police Force, State Security Service to disrupt their protest.

In his judgment on 21st day of March 2022 at its first court sitting in Ghana presided over by the President of the Court Hon. Justice Edward Amoako Asante held that the state action banning the applicants peaceful assembly and procession infringes on their rights to assemble and associate as provided for in Article 10 and 11 of the African Charter,Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Section 40 of the Constitution of 1999, Article 3,10, 11 and 17(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and Rule 94 (b) of the Guideline on Freedom of Assembly and Association. The Court also awarded the applicants the sum of 15, 000 USD as compensation for the unlawful denial of their right to protest

In this case, the applicants assemble for peaceful protest on 28th day of March 2021 to raise awareness on the hike in prices of fuel, sachet water and cement and its link with monopoly. The protest was disrupted by government by locking up the assembly premises with the applicants inside for hours. The applicants argued that the lock out order of the Defendant infringes on their right to protest.

Responding to the judgment, Com. Kelly Omokaro, the executive director of Faculty of Peace, hailed the regional court for interfering at this crucial time of the nation’s history. For President Aigbokhan, Esq counsel to the applicants “assuming there is rumored disruption of peace or hijack of protest, the state ought to deplete its security vote to ensure the participants are protected to air their views and not to ban the procession. This is because the right protest is a constitutional and fundamental right and restriction of this right limits the potential for a free public space with the consequence of hindering the operation of public engagement and participation.

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