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The ECOWAS Court of Justice has dismissed a suit filed by five Nigerian politicians who sought the court order to abolish excessive nomination and expression of interest fees being charged by political parties in Nigeria.
In a judgment read by the court’s President, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, the court said the clause in Article 13 of the African Charter, relied on by the politicians, provides that “ every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law,” has “put national authorities (countries) in the best position to enact local laws in accordance with the Charter to address peculiar circumstances.”
The court, according to a statement by its media office, agreed that the facts and circumstances that gave rise to the suit, as presented by the politicians point to a restrictive practice by political parties in imposing exorbitant fees to secure party nomination to contest for some important national electoral positions.
In the judgment, the regional court noted that the practice is not directly attributable to the respondent (the Federal Republic of Nigeria) to entail its responsibility and accountability.
The court, currently sitting in Abidjan, Cote D`Ivoire, further noted that while the country’s electoral commission was granted minimal responsibility to monitor the activities of the political parties, the current mandate clearly excludes control over the levying of fees by the political parties against those who expressed interest and picked their nomination forms to be sponsored by them.
It, therefore, agreed on Nigeria and held that “there is no legal basis as of now that vests the respondent with the authority to control the charging or capping of nomination fees by political parties.”
The politicians- Kenneth Roberts, Goodluck Edafe, Matthew Oguche, Macauley William-Jumbo and Josephine Okeke – had sued the Nigerian government, claiming among others, that the outrageous cost of nomination and declaration of interest forms imposed on aspirants by political parties violate their right to participate in the country’s governance.
They argued that it takes political office aspirations beyond the reach of the middle class and the poor.
In the suit marked: ECW/CCJ/APP/49/18 the applicants argued that the imposition of such excessive fees on aspirants amounts to a gradual and systematic entrenchment of plutocracy as the forms have become a vehicle to completely marginalise and exclude some people.
They added that political aspirants are required to contest elections on the platforms of political parties after purchasing their expensive forms to contest their primaries and that such an act “is a gradual and systematic entrenchment of plutocracy, a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich to the exclusion of the poor and middle classes”.
The applicants had relied mainly on Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all relating to equal access to public office, in contending that the expression of interest and nomination form fees fixed arbitrarily and exorbitantly by Nigerian political parties have led to the marginalisation of political office aspirants.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK