Stop issuing unenforceable orders, FG tells ECOWAS Court - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Stop issuing unenforceable orders, FG tells ECOWAS Court

The Federal Government has asked the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to refrain from issuing unenforceable orders and judgements.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who represented FG at the opening session of the statutory meeting of the ECOWAS Judicial Council, held in Abuja, said it was important for the regional court to pay attention to the peculiarities of member states.

He decried that some judicial pronouncements that emanated from the ECOWAS court, were "practically incapable of enforcement."

Besides, the AGF said there was "dire need to promote and deepen alternative dispute resolution measures within the region."

He said: "Let me use this opportunity to commend the distinguished justices of the Community Court who have continued to work tirelessly to adjudicate over cases in a manner as to inspire confidence in the Courts ability to meet the demands of litigants, that is, resolution of disputes.

"By so doing, the Court contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. The various national judicial systems in member States are also expected to play these critical roles of nation and regional building.

"You may recall that in January 2005, the Community adopted the Additional Protocol to permit persons to bring suits against Member States. The jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court of Justice was expanded to include cases of violations of human rights in all Member States.

"The language of the Additional Protocol also made it clear that the sources of law to be applied by the Court under its original Protocol would include not only general principles of international law, but also human rights laws. 

"The extensive jurisdiction conferred on the ECOWAS Court therefore calls for recruitment of jurists with extensive experience, expertise, high moral character and discipline. It is for this reason that the ECOWAS Judicial Council was established in 2006 and charged with the responsibility for recruitment and discipline of judges of the Community Court of Justice. 

"It is worthy of note that the ECOWAS Judicial Council plays a crucial role in advancing justice delivery and access to justice by recruiting individuals with requisite experience and capacity to handle the myriad of cases brought before the Courts.  

"As we are all well aware, we are in an era where the foundational principles of the Economic Community of West African States are being tested and this reinforces the need for the Community’s Justice System to respond appropriately to contemporary issues in order to engender justice, fairness and inspire confidence in Community citizens.

"It is therefore critical that the Community Court of Justice continues to undergo necessary reforms to bring it in tandem with the current exigencies and manage the challenges associated with justice delivery in the region. 

"The Court must adopt strategies that strengthen its jurisdiction, whilst appreciating the jurisdictional boundaries of the Court and limiting unnecessary conflict with domestic laws of member States. 

"It is important for the Court to pay attention to the peculiarities of member States and refrain from issuing orders and judgments that are practically incapable of enforcement," the AGF added.

In his opening address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who is the Chairman of the ECOWAS Judicial Council, said the body would continue to play a vital role towards ensuring a more just, peaceful and integrated West Africa.

The CJN said the Council was determined to safeguard the autonomy of courts and judges so as to ensure fair and impartial adjudication of disputes.

However, he advocated for the unification of laws within the ECOWAS region.

"In a region characterized by diverse legal systems and traditions, the harmonization of laws and legal practices is essential for promoting regional integration and cooperation," the CJN stated.

On his part, the President of ECOWAS Commission, Mr. H. E. Omar Touray, said the meeting, which had Chief Justices of ECOWAS member states in attendance, would help the region to address issues affecting the effective operation of the Community Court and to ensure excellence, high standards of conduct among the judges with regard to their independence, impartiality, and diligence. 

"The enforcement of the judgements of the Community Court has remained a major issue in the effective delivery of the mandate and responsibility of the judicial institution to the community citizens.

"The supplementary protocol relating to the Community Court provides a role for the national judicial institutions in the enforcement of these judgements. I believe that it is time for deliberate action to be taken to address this challenge. 

"In this era, where instability and insecurity are overwhelming our community, the role of the justice sector is crucial in conflict prevention, through the promotion and defence of the rule of law and human rights. 

"It is therefore crucial to institutionalise a more regular meeting of the Judicial Council to ensure that the activities of the Court benefit from the regularly review and guidance of the Council," he added.

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