In a highly anticipated turn of events, the ECOWAS Court of Justice has set October 31, 2023, as the pivotal date for its ruling in the case involving Ambassador Ali Ocheni and four others against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This case pertains to alleged violations of the applicants’ fundamental human rights.
The applicants, comprising Ambassador Ali Ocheni, Hajiya (Chief) Rekiya M. Abaji, Dr. Sebastine Abuh, Suleimane Akpa, and Dr. Ojoachele Akor Felix—distinguished Nigerian citizens—invoked a multifaceted array of human rights charters, encompassing the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, alongside pertinent provisions of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and Elections, and the African Union Declaration on Democracy and Elections.
Their contentions centered on the alleged infringements of their rights to freedom of movement, expression, and association, attributing these violations to the Nigerian state’s failure to safeguard the populace of Kogi State amidst pervasive insecurity. Expressing concern and apprehension ahead of the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in November 2023, the applicants criticized the Nigerian government’s lack of proactive security measures.
Conversely, the Respondent State refuted these claims, citing the globally turbulent nature of election periods, while asserting its awareness of the impending elections and the implementation of security measures for citizen protection. Additionally, it challenged the applicants’ standing and urged the Court to dismiss their claims, contending their impatience.
Following a comprehensive hearing on October 27, 2023, where both parties presented their arguments, the Court acceded to the Respondent’s plea for an extension to file its defense. Simultaneously, it granted the Applicants’ request to withdraw their application for default judgment. Moreover, the Court deliberated on the Applicants’ plea for interim measures and an accelerated procedure, deciding to synthesize its ruling with the final judgment, scheduled for October 31, 2023.
The judicial panel, comprising three distinguished judges—Hon. Justice Gberi-Bè Ouattara, presiding; Hon. Justice Dupe Atoki, Judge Rapporteur; and Hon. Justice Ricardo Claúdio Monteiro Gonçalves, as a member—is set to deliver this momentous judgment, addressing the intricate legal contentions and the fervent quest for justice in this case of national and regional significance.