The ECOWAS Court and the Justiciability of Socio-Economic Rights in Nigeria


Socio-economic rights were presented in domestic, Nigerian Law, in chapter II of the 1979 Constitution of Nigeria. The protection of Socio-Economic rights has been retained in subsequent constitutions and also features in the 1999 (current) Constitution of Nigeria. Of particular interest to this paper is section 6 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which empowers the judiciary to interpret all laws made by the legislature. However, sub section (6)(c) limits the powers of the courts to adjudicate on any matter that relates to the implementation or enforcement of socio-economic rights in Nigeria. Despite its recognition in domestic, Nigerian Law, these rights are not justiciable in Nigeria. The implication is that where socioeconomic rights such as right to education, health and housing are violated, the courts cannot entertain such matters or grant any remedy thereto. However, a series of judgments of the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (‘ECJ’), the SERAP cases have, consistently and persuasively called on Nigeria to consider its obligation under international human rights law and to recognise the justiciability of Socio-economic rights albeit the constitutional limitation in section 6(6)(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).  Using a human rights approach, this paper examines one of these decisions per SERAP v. Nigeria and Anor (2010 and 2012) to ascertain how this developing jurisprudence has influenced judicial reasoning towards implementing socioeconomic rights in Nigeria

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