ABUJA/Nigeria: The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has adjourned to April 12, a suit by Nigeriens in diaspora challenging their exclusion by the Republic of Niger, in the country’s 2020 elections.
Justice Asante, president of the court, adjourned the case after listening to both parties at the court in Abuja.
Asante, who presided over the matter alongside other judges, Gberi-Be Ouattara, and Keikura Bangura, said the court was compelled to adjourn because a document was filed on the day of the hearing.
This, the judges said, would give the court time for its translation to enable all the judges in the three-member panel to understand the contents in their language.
In the suit, the Nigeriens in diaspora, alleged that their exclusion to participate in the country’s electoral process constituted a violation of their human rights.
They said their exclusion also included violating their right to register in the electoral register and consequently their right to vote.
“The applicants requested the Court to declare that the state of Niger had infringed their rights as enshrined in Articles 1, 2 paragraph 1, 7.
“And 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); Articles 2, 3, 25 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
“They also cited Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); Articles 4 and 6 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, Articles 4(g,i,j).
“And 5(3) of the revised ECOWAS Treaty; Articles 1(b), h), 4 paragraph 1, 5 and 6 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance,” they said.
They urged the Court to order the state of Niger to respect their rights.
“And to take the necessary measures to guarantee their right to participate freely in the electoral process of their state, in accordance with Community and international texts”.
“They prayed the Court to also order the state of Niger to refrain from taking measures to prevent them from exercising their right to vote.”
Counsel to the Applicants, Bachirou Adamou cited the electoral calendar of the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to back up their case.
Adamou stated that as contained in the calendar, citizens of the zone 2 regions, of which the Nigeriens in the diaspora belong, should register on the electoral register between Feb. 6, 2020 and April 2020.
However, he said, against all odds, by a press release of Feb. 14, 2020, the applicants learnt that they were excluded from the enlistment operation.
According to the President of CENI (Commission Electorale Nationale Independante), their exclusion was due to the closure of the borders.
The Counsel, therefore, urged the Court to hold that by arbitrarily excluding the applicants from enjoying their right to vote and stand in the 2020 elections, the state of Niger breached the rules governing the electoral process.
He said that the suit was therefore in disregard of its international human rights commitments and violation of their human rights, as contained in the Community and international instruments mentioned.
Respondent to the case, represented by Mr. Mainassara Oumarou, prayed the Court to declare as inadmissible the action of the applicants who had failed to provide evidence of their status as Nigeriens residing or domiciled abroad.
Oumarou said that the CENI had experienced difficulties in the involvement of Nigeriens in the diaspora, and in consultations with the government, it restricted participation to those in 23 countries.
Then, missions were organized in these countries to see how to set up the administrative commissions for enrollment and voting.
The respondent further said that the process was also truncated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the closure of borders, the accompanying lockdown and travel disruptions.
“Faced with this situation, the Prime Minister sought the opinion of the Constitutional Court on whether this could constitute a force majeure.
“And in response issued a decision that by its scope, it excludes Nigeriens in the diaspora from voting.
“The state of Niger also raised a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the case, on the ground that it would amount to reviewing the decision of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Niger.