ECOWAS Court President hails nine-day external session in Abidjan as most successful

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The President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice has hailed the just concluded external session of the Court in Abidjan, during which 11 judgments were delivered and 38 cases heard and adjourned for continuation in Abuja, as one of the most productive of such sessions in the 20-year history of the Court with a tinge of history.

“After nine eventful days, we can proudly say that we have achieved the objective of this mission by bringing justice to litigants at the grassroots of the Community and exposing the practice and procedure of the Court to lawyers at the national level,” Justice Edward Amoako Asante said in his speech at the closing ceremony of the session, which was attended by high-level officials of the host government, lawyers and law students.

He added: “this external court session was equally unique because this is the first time in which the Court has held hybrid sessions, allowing lawyers to participate either physically or remotely from their various countries while the opening and closing ceremonies of the session were live-streamed for the first time.”

Justice Asante said such sessions, the first by the present college of judges, also allowed the Court the opportunity to deepen collaboration with the national courts of Member States as the regional integration process could not be fully achieved without a harmonious relationship between the Court and national courts and a clear definition of their relationship as the Court relied on national courts for the enforcement of its judgments.

“Therefore, the national courts of the Member States and the ECOWAS Court of Justice form the cornerstone of the ECOWAS Community legal order,” the President emphasized during the 29th October 2021 ceremony.

He, however, expressed regret that Article 10(f) of the Protocol on the Court, which would have facilitated effective collaboration between national courts of the Member States and the ECOWAS Court of Justice through referrals from national courts for the interpretation of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and other ECOWAS Community texts, was yet to be implemented by any national court.

The President explained the imperative of a normative framework for regional integration and the deepening of the relationship between the national courts and the regional court as this would provide the enabling legal environment for the attainment of Community objectives, particularly since ECOWAS had adopted the protection of human rights as a cardinal and fundamental value of the Community as enshrined in its Treaty.

“Without doubt, regional economic integration and regional protection of human rights both constrain sovereignty ( and) it is, therefore, necessary for Member States that established ECOWAS as a vehicle for regional economic integration, to recognize the supra-nationality of ECOWAS and the need for them to abide by their treaty obligations to the Community, “ he added.

This, he said, would enhanced through their domestication of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and the annexed Protocols, including the Protocols on the Court in accordance with their treaty obligations under Article 5(2) of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty to provide the enabling legal environment for the region’s integration process.

As a Community institution, Justice Asante said the Court was an important tool for the realization of the ECOWAS objective of transforming the region into a Community of People, who are at the core of the integration process, instead of States and which required the removal of all impediments to access to the Court by the citizens.

In this regard, he stressed the need for the Member States to comply with the judgments of the Court as provided in the Revised Treaty, which provided that the judgments of Court were binding on all Member States, Institutions of the Community, corporate bodies and individuals to address the ‘ 30 per cent unsatisfactory rate of compliance,’ of the Court’s decisions.

Under the Protocol on the Court, only six States of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Togo, have appointed their competent national authority entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing the judgments of the Court in the Member States.

The President, therefore, urged the remaining Member States that were yet to do so, “particularly the Government of Cote d’Ivoire to appoint the competent national authority as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, the Vice-President, Justice Gberi-be Ouattara, had expressed the gratitude of the Court to the government and people of Cote d’Ivoire for the contribution to the conduct of the session, including the President of the Court of Cassation and high-level officials of the government.

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