By Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Victoria Ojeme
ABUJA—The Court of Justice of Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, yesterday, urged Nigeria and governments of 14 other member states not to ignore its judgments on cases affecting the interest and well-being of their poor citizens.
The court, through its President, Justice Jerome Traore, made the appeal while flagging-off its 2017/2018 Legal Year in Abuja.
Justice Traore stressed that considered judgments of the court on cases filed by aggrieved citizens of member states of the regional body were rendered meaningless when they were not respected or complied with.
He said the court had powers not only to settle inter-state disputes, but to also adjudicate on human rights issues in the sub-region.
He said judicial efficiency was not limited to justice delivered in reasonable time, but equally involves the expeditious enforcement of court decisions.
He said: “Now to talk of judicial efficiency is to talk first of all of justice delivered in reasonable time.
“Our English-speaking friends rightly say ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’, don’t they?”
“Thus, ‘diligence’ which does not sacrifice serenity on the altar of speed, is without doubt, a guarantee of quality and judicial process.
“Again, to talk of judicial efficiency, is to talk of enforcement of court decisions in the best possible time and in good faith”, Justice Traore added.
He bemoaned the reduction of number of judges of the ECOWAS court at a time he said the number of cases lodged by citizens of member states were on the rise.
According to him, “Indeed, the Court has powers which enable it to be described variously as a classical international court, that is to say that it is mandated to settle inter-state disputes, or as a community court of integration, or as the administrative court of an international organization, or as the human rights court of a sub-region.
“Another way of stating that is that the ECOWAS court of Justice plays the role of five international courts, if one should add its arbitral powers, provided for under Article 9(5) of its Protocol”.
He said despite such heavy responsibilities, only seven judges adjudicate on cases from the entire member states, saying the court should not be “suffocated at the time when it is making serious efforts to institute the principle of a two-tier system of operation, notably by the inclusion of an appellate chamber.”
Meanwhile, in his speech at the event, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, said judges of the Court must continue to exercise the court’s jurisdiction with all fairness and dedication to deepen law and order within the ECOWAS region.
The AGF who was represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Apata, assured the court of the continued support and cooperation of the Nigerian government.
He equally urged the court to support the reform efforts of the federal government.
It will be recalled that the ECOWAS court had in a judgment on October 4, 2016, ordered the Federal Government to immediately release the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, from detention, an order FG refused to comply with.