ECOWAS Court asked to issue writ of execution against FG over free education judgment

Featured December 30, 2011

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja has been asked to “urgently issue a writ of execution against the Nigerian government and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to secure the full and effective implementation of the ECOWAS Court judgment requiring the government to provide free and compulsory basic education to every Nigerian child.”

The request was made by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a letter signed by the organization’s lawyer, Femi Falana and addressed to the Registrar of the court.

In the letter dated 4 March 2011, the organization said that, “This request is brought pursuant to article 24 (2) (3) of the Supplementary Protocol of the ECOWAS Court, which provides that, “Execution of any Judgment of the Court shall be in the form of a writ  of execution, which shall be submitted by the Registrar of the Court  to the relevant Member State for execution according to the rules of  civil procedure of that Member State. Upon the verification by the appointed authority of recipient Member    State that the writ is from the Court, the writ shall be enforced.”

The organization said that, “since the judgment was delivered in November 2010, the government and the UBEC have neither acknowledged the judgment nor taken steps to implement the letter and spirit of the judgment. Since the judgment was delivered, more than 5 million Nigerian children of school age still roam the streets and have no access to primary education; 115 million adults are illiterate. Nigerian children still lack access to quality primary education in Nigeria.”

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“SERAP’s investigation this year has also revealed gross under-funding of the nation’s educational institutions and systemic corruption in the systems; non-availability of class rooms seats and pupils sitting on bare floor; non-availability of books and other teaching materials; poor curricula; poor and uninviting learning environments; overcrowding; inability of supervising agencies to set and/or enforce standards; and absence of infrastructural facilities,” the organization added.

The organization also said that “by the judgment, the government is required to review the effectiveness of the existing domestic remedies for the legal enforcement of the right to education, and to take steps to address structural or general deficiencies in national law or practice.”

“While Article 15(4) of the ECOWAS Treaty makes the Judgment of the Court binding on Member States, institutions of the Community and individuals and corporate bodies, Article 76 (2) provides for the finality of the decision of the Court.

Also Article 19(2) of the 1991 Protocol provides that the decisions of the Court shall be final and immediately enforceable. The Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS can also impose sanctions under article 77(1) for non-implementation. The Court can also refuse to entertain any application brought by the offending Member State until such a State enforces its decision,” the organization further added.

“Therefore, the government and the UBEC are duty-bound to ensure that all judgments by the ECOWAS Court are dully and effectively implemented.”

“SERAP believes that Nigeria has the resources and capacity to implement the ECOWAS Court right to education judgment if the government is able to exercise the required political will”, the organization also said. The organization noted that, “Nigeria is currently the chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, and should therefore show good example in the efforts to promote the implementation of ECOWAS treaties and decisions.”

“For many years, the ECOWAS Court has played an important role in defending and safeguarding the human rights of the citizens in the sub-region.

We are confident that our request will be urgently attended, and the writ of execution issued against the Nigerian government and the UBEC without delay,” the organization also said. Following a case SERAP instituted against the Nigerian government and the UBEC, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in November 2010 delivered a ground-breaking judgment requiring the government to provide as of right, free quality, and compulsory basic education to every Nigerian child.

SERAP’s suit had alleged violation of the right to quality education, the right to dignity, the right of peoples to their wealth and natural resources and to economic and social development guaranteed by Articles 1, 2, 17, 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The court in its well-considered judgment ordered the government to make adequate provisions for the compulsory and free education of every child forthwith.

The court also asked the government to ensure that the right to education is not be undermined by corruption. The ECOWAS Court held that the UBEC has the responsibility to ensure that funds disbursed for basic education are properly used for this purpose.

The Court also noted that there was prima facie evidence of embezzlement of funds on the basis of the reports of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

The Court stated that while steps are taken to recover funds and/or prosecute the suspects, the Nigerian government should provide the funds necessary to cover the shortfall in order to avoid denying any of its people the right to education.