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Nigeria: Regional Court Says Government Has Legal Obligation to Provide Free and Compulsory Education to Children

(Dec. 3, 2010) On November 30, 2010, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS CCJ) ruled that the Nigerian government has an obligation to provide free and compulsory education to every Nigerian child (ECOWAS Court Orders Nigeria to Provide Free, Compulsory Education, AFRIQUE AVENIR (Dec. 1, 2010),

This judgment follows a ruling issued by the ECOWAS CCJ in October 2009 in response to a petition instituted by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERP) – a Lagos-based non-governmental organization which, among other things, promotes Nigeria’s full compliance with the human rights and anti-corruption treaties to which it is party – against the Nigerian Federal government and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). SERP alleged that Nigeria violated the right to quality education, the right to dignity, the right of people to their wealth and natural resources, and the right to economic and social development guaranteed under the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Bunmi Awolusi, ECOWAS Court Orders FG to Provide Free Education – The Punch, NIGERIAN BULLETIN (Nov. 1, 2010),

The Nigerian government filed an objection in which it argued that ECOWAS CCJ lacked jurisdiction to try the matter for three reasons: the Basic Education Act and the Child’s Rights Act were national laws and not ECOWAS conventions or protocols and therefore not subject to the jurisdiction of the court; the educational objective under the Nigerian Constitution is not justiciable; and SERP lacked standing (Right to Education Project, SERAP vs. Federal Republic of Nigeria and Universal Basic Education Commission ECW/CCJ/APP/08/08, (last visited Nov. 1, 2010)). The court dismissed all three arguments made by the Nigerian government and ruled that the right to education is enforceable and may be litigated before ECOWAS CCJ (id.).

ECOWAS is a regional organization founded in 1975 with the mission of promoting economic integration in “all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters …. .” (ECOWAS in Brief, (last visited Nov.1, 2010)). Its members are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo (id.).