• Dr Chidi Anselm Odinkalu says Nigeria failed to go through the necessary steps before closing all their land borders.
  • He explained that Nigeria is not permitted to take and effect such a decision without consulting regional neighbours.
  • He said this is a very serious issue which requires the Court of Justice to get involved.

A member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice has described Nigeria’s closure of all its land borders as irresponsible.

Dr Chidi Anselm Odinkalu explained that Nigeria is not permitted to take and effect such a decision without consulting regional neighbours.

“Nigeria has acted irresponsibly and has put the Community in peril...that is wrong. There are rules for doing the kind of thing Nigeria has done. If Nigeria chooses to do this, it’s got to notify the sub-region or it’s got to derogate formally from the treaty or denounce the treaty. Nigeria has not done any of those things. What is has simply done is to blockade its neighbours in the sub-region,” he explained.

Dr Odinkalu said the treaty, in this case, referred to the ECOWAS Treaty, a multilateral agreement signed by member states.

One of its many aims and objectives is the establishment of a common market through

- the liberalisation of trade by the abolition, among member States, of customs duties, levied on imports and exports, and the abolition, among member States, of non-tariff barriers in order to establish a free trade area at the Community level;

- the adoption of a common external tariff and a common trade policy vis-a-vis third countries;

- the removal, between member states, of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services, and capital, and to the right of residence and establishment.

However, he said it seems Nigeria did not consider any of these when it decided to close all land borders.

Dr Odinkalu who is a Nigerian said the decision is simply a violation of obligations.

“Nigeria has quite literally driven carts and horses through the legal obligations that underpin ECOWAS and that means that if tomorrow, any other country violates the rules of the sub-region in the same way, Nigeria cannot do anything about it.”

When asked if the Court of Justice should summon Nigeria on the matter, Dr Odinkalu said that can be done but it would be better for member states or citizens to introduce the case to the court.

“It is very serious and it requires the Court of Justice to get involved but not of its own motion,” he said.