Agitations for Yoruba Nation Suffers Setback as ECOWAS Court Rejects Suit
The ECOWAS Court of Justice has dismissed a suit filed by four individuals 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 judgment, 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, 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 Yoruba people.
The judge 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”.
She held 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.
Justice Atoki also held that the applicants failed to exhibit their capacity to represent the Yoruba for whom the action was instituted.
The judge averred that in cases of the 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.
According to her, no such evidence of authority given by the Yoruba nation was provided by the applicants.
The judge subsequently declared the application inadmissible.
A statement by the court’s media unit said the judgment was delivered on March 13.
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 court declaration 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 configurations of the country.
The applicants said 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 ensured the development of all the federating units.
They alleged that the northern states set the precedence for their action in Year 2000 when they adopted the Sharia Law, de facto ceding from Nigeria.
The applicants also 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, thereby opening the door for self-determination for the Yoruba.
They prayed 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.
The applicants 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.
They equally urged the court to determine the possibility of self-determination for the territories in Yoruba land.
Alternatively, they urged the court to order the Nigerian government to organise 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”.
The government argued that Nigeria is operating a federal system, observing the rule of law, adding that the applicants did not have the authority to determine the efficacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The respondent also 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 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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