Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, has
urged legal experts from ECOWAS Member States to work towards bequeathing to
the Community an acceptable common legal regime with regard to freedom of
expression and right to information, as fundamental rights in the region.
Speaking in Abuja on Monday, 5th March 2012 at the opening of the meeting of
the ECOWAS Technical Committee on Legal and Judicial Affairs, the Minister
represented by Federal Attorney, Mrs. Victoria Umoren, described as “a step in
the right direction,” the Draft Supplementary Act on the Uniform Legal
Framework on Freedom of Expression and Right to Information in West Africa,
submitted for the adoption of the legal experts.
“There is no doubt that this (Draft Act) would greatly enhance the right to
information and freedom of expression which are fundamental human rights
issues enshrined in our respective National Constitutions and varied
International Treaties and Conventions,” the Minister affirmed.
The Draft Supplementary Act seeks to provide a uniform framework to protect
freedom of expression and the right to information within the context of
improving the environment for democracy and good governance in the region.
It provides common expansive and libertarian legal framework for free
expression including media freedom, and for the right to information thereby
setting the condition for the reform/repeal of anti-free expression
legislations in ECOWAS Member States.
The document is one of the two legal texts being considered by the meeting.
The other text is the Draft ECOWAS Tenders Code, which the Minister said “is
important in ensuring that Member States share a common responsibility in the
overall modalities taken by the ECOWAS Commission to put in place an enabling
He expressed confidence in the commitment of Member States to the ideals of
ECOWAS with respect to Ethics infringement, adding that envisaged sanctions
would be meted out to defaulters under the legal text.
The Vice-President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Toga Mcintosh, said the draft
Tenders Code when adopted will replace the existing one which was adopted by
the Council of Ministers in 1999, and which governs all contractual
obligations related to procurement within the Community institutions and
between the Community and Third Parties.
“The new Procurement Code, if adopted, will indeed avail the institutions of
the Community with a more efficient and effective procurement system for their
procurement requirements,” said Dr. Mcintosh, who represented the President of
the Commission, His
Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo.
The Uniform Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression, he said, would ensure
that Member States maintain the standards agreed to and set in many
international Conventions as well as serve to entrench the independence of the
Media and Media Professionals within the legal jurisprudence, and regulate
operations of the Print and Broadcast Media in the region.
In her opening remarks, the ECOWAS Director, Legal, Mrs. Henrietta Didigu,
noted that the meeting was the first under the Commission’s new management
Cote d’Ivoire, the current chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State
and Government, later took over chair of the Technical Committee from Nigeria.