A total of 425 cases have been lodged with the ECOWAS Community Court since its inception in 2001, the Chief Registrar of the Court, Mr Tony Anene-Maidoh said on Monday, 30th September 2019.

In a welcome address at the opening of the 2019/2020 legal year of the Court in Abuja, he said 355 decisions consisting of 220 judgments, 113 rulings, eighteen revisions of judgments and four advisory opinions were also rendered during the period.

He also said that 984 Court sessions were held while 115 cases were currently pending before the Court. Citing the judicial statistics of the Court, he described as ‘remarkable,’ the productivity of the current college of judges who rendered 35 decisions, a new record for the Court, during the last legal year.

Despite the enhanced productivity of the Court, the Chief Registrar said the judges were working under very difficult circumstances such as the reduction in their number from seven to five against the background of increased workload, the reduction in their tenure from five years renewable to four non-renewable, the inadequacy of translators and the ‘worrisome’ enforcement of its decisions.

“The Protocol on the Court as amended gives Member States the obligation to enforce decisions of the Court in accordance with Rules of Procedure of the concerned Member State and enjoins them to determine the competent national authority for the receipt and processing of the judgments of the Court,” he added.

Unfortunately, he said only five Member States, mainly the Republics of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Togo and the Federal Republic of Nigeria have appointed the competent national authority for the enforcement of the decisions of the Court  as prescribed by the Supplementary Protocol.

Consequently, he launched on appeal for Member States to address the issue and revisit the reduction in the number of judges as well as reinstate the staggering of their tenure for greater efficiency and the retention of institutional memory.

The Chief Registrar expressed concern at the lack of referral to the Court by the National Courts of Member States in line with the provisions of the Supplementary Protocol on the Court which provides for referrals on issues regarding the interpretation of Community texts for which it has exclusive jurisdiction.

“This is to ensure certainty and uniformity in the interpretation and application of ECOWAS Community texts which can only be achieved if the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court in the interpretation of Community Texts is respected,’ he added.

He expressed the hope that the new legal year will see the deepening of the fraternal relations between the Court and its stakeholders, mainly Member States, Community institutions and development partners.

The ceremony was attended by high officials of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Judges of some Member States, members of the diplomatic corps and partners.

The ceremony was the first by the present college of Judges of the Court following their 31st July 2018 swearing in by the then Chairman of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, President Faure Essozinma Gnassingbe of Togo in Lome.