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Independent candidacy: ECOWAS Court dismisses suit against Nigeria

The Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Court of Justice has dismissed a suit by Obinna Umeh and six others, challenging Nigeria’s laws, which bars independent candidacy in election contests.

A three-member panel of justices presided by the court’s President, Justice Edward Asante, held that Nigeria did not breach any convention or charter.

The case was brought before the court in November 2018 by Obinna Umeh, Kenneth Roberts, Dr. Matthew Oguche and Emmanuel Agada.

They urged the court to compel Nigeria to allow independent candidates to contest in elections.

They argued that the mandatory membership of political parties as pre-requisite to contest elections infringed on their right to vote and be voted.

They argued it also infringed on their human rights as enshrined in the African Charter and Universal Declaration on Human Rights, International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory.

However, Nigeria argued that the ECOWAS Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit which has direct bearing on its constitution.

The community court said it had examined all treaties and protocols that Nigeria is signatory to and it were clear the country had not erred in its laws.

The presiding judge also said it was only a matter of common sense that giving the population and diversity of Nigeria, allowing for independent candidacy will be almost impossible to handle.

“Law also in a way goes with common sense. It is clear that a country with a population of over 200 million, if in an election, 400 people decide to contest the presidency, you are going to have a ballot paper of over 50 pages.”

“That is why the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the Electoral Laws thought it wise to make people belong to such groups.

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