The ECOWAS Court of Justice has dismissed a suit by four individuals seeking self-determination for the Yoruba people of Nigeria.
The three-man panel of the court, Justices Edward Amoako Asante (presiding), Gberi-Bè Ouattara, and Dupe Atoki, held that the applicants lacked the necessary capacity to sue for themselves and on behalf of the Yoruba nation.
The four applicants, who are members of the Coalition of Yoruba Interest Group, are Risqat Badmus, Ademola Faleti, Yemisi Fadahunsi-Ogunlana and Adigun Makanjuola.
In the suit marked, ECW/CCJ/APP/08/22, the applicants sought an 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.
They argued that Nigeria was constituted in 1914 by the British Government without taking into account the social, cultural, religious and ethnic configuration of the country.
They argued that the Constitutional Force Majeure Proclamation, which they issued and published in newspapers, was an opportunity for the respondent, which is the Federal Government, to set the country on the path of better governance.
They contended that 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, therefore opening the door for self-determination for the Yoruba.
They added that since its independence in 1960 which was supposed to be based on true federalism, Nigeria had not been able to forge a common interest that would ensure the development of all the federating units.
The applicants had prayed to the court to determine if the 1999 Constitution was still operable following the deadline they gave the Federal Government in the Constitutional Force Majeure proclamation
The applicants urged the court to determine the possibility of self-determination for the territories in Yorubaland.
Alternatively, they urged the Nigerian government to organise a referendum giving the opportunity to the applicants’ land to exit the respondent’s territory.
But the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in its counter-affidavit, 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.”
It argued that the country is a federation, observing the rule of law and that the applicants did not have the authority to determine the efficacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It then prayed the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was mainly based on individual opinions, speculations and insinuations.
Delivering judgement, 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 the Yoruba people.
The judge held that the applicants failed to exhibit their capacity to represent the Yoruba people, for whom the action was instituted.
The judge said “a representative action is the appropriate and indeed the most practicable option in seeking relief for violation of this right.”
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