Justice Edward Asante, President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice has appealed to member states to enforce judgment passed by the Court, an issue he noted was a major challenge of the Court.
Asante made the call on Monday in Abuja during the opening ceremony of 2019 to 2020 Legal year of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the New Legal Year is “The need for a strong and Independent Regional Court for the Economic Integration of West Africa”. According to Asante, the Court was concerned on the unsatisfactory rate of compliance with the judgments of the Court. “The Judgments of this Court are binding on the Member States, Institutions of ECOWAS, Individuals and Corporate bodies.
“And the protocol gives the responsibility for the enforcement of the judgments of the Court to member states in accordance with their Rules of Civil Procedure. “It also requires each member state to appoint a competent National Authority for the purpose of receipt and processing of the execution of judgments of the Court.
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“It is worrisome that since 2005, only five Member States have appointed the competent National Authority for the enforcement of its decisions as prescribed by the supplementary Protocol. “These are Republic of Guinea, Nigeria, Burkina Faso Mali, and Togo. “May I therefore seize this opportunity to appeal to the Member States to take necessary steps to appoint competent National Authorities for the enforcement of the Court”.
Asante also listed other challenges of the courts to include acute accommodation crisis, explaining that the Court do not have sufficient space to accommodate judges and staff who are also working in an unconducive environment. He said that the inadequate numbers of translators was also a challenge which has led to inordinate delay in translation of court processes.
Asante however said that in this new legal year, the primary focus of the Court is on the administration of Justice and it will strive to improve in its output and performance compared to previous years. He said that other programs for focus in the new legal year includes Publication of the Law reports of the Court in the three working languages of the Court, Training for Judges and Lawyers.
He listed other programs to include Radio and Television Sensitization programs, retreat on the Arbitration Rule of the Court , 2020 Judges and Judicial Retreats, Administration and Financial retreat, training of Staff among other activities. Asante said that the ECCJ has concluded the design of an Electronic Case Management System explaining that once operational, parties will not have to come physically to Abuja to lodge an application before the court.
Also speaking, Prof. Muhammed Ladan, Director, Legislative Support Service, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies recommended that sanctions be given to any Member States that fails to obey the Court’s judgment. He said that unless sanctions are given to defaulting States or institutions, the confidence in the Court will be eroded.
“Member states have not actually risen up to their responsibility, which is a treaty obligation to respect and enforce community judgment within their national jurisdiction. “And this is actually why they must continue to understand and embrace the concept of Supra-Nationality that the ECOWAS Community has adopted.
“Unless member states who fail to comply voluntarily with the judgment are compelled to do so by triggering the sanction power of the ECOWAS Authority under article 77 of the revised treaty. “And under the 2012 Supplementary Act of Sanctions against Members states that fail to honor their obligations to ECOWAS, the confidence in the Court will be eroded.
“It is in the best interest of Member States to ensure that the confidence of this court that it has built so far with all the recorded success stories should not be eroded”, Ladan said. In his remarks, Amb. Zubairu Dada, Minister of State, Foreign Affairs assured the Court of the support of the Nigerian Government in its efforts to continue being an independent regional Court towards economic integration.
Dada said that an Independent ECOWAS Court of Justice was critical in reposing the confidence of ECOWAS citizens to continue trusting the litigation of the Court.He congratulated the court for its laudable achievements in the dispensation of justice especially in the area of citizens’ rights.