The President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Jean-Claude Kassi Brou has implored Member States of the 15-member Community to commit themselves to respect the regional Protocol on Free Movement of goods and services, right of residence and establishment as well as implement the ECOWAS Biometric Identity card.

In a speech at the opening of the 2019 International Conference of the Community Court of Justice, the President said the Commission is strengthening the effective implementation of that Protocol which along the biometric card, are designed to facilitate mobility and promoting security in the region.

In the speech which was delivered by Commissioner Kofi Konadu Apraku of the ECOWAS Commission, the President described the timing of the conference as ‘very auspicious when the region is accelerating progress towards regional economic integration,’ on which significant progress has been recorded particularly in the areas of peace and security through initiatives such as preventive diplomacy, early warning capacity building and peacekeeping that have contributed to relative stability in the region.

He also spoke about the successes achieved by the region in the development of common investment policy and code, the ECOWAS payments and settlement system, the implementation of the West African Capital Markets Integration Programme under the auspices of the West African Capital Markets Integration Council as well as in the areas of agriculture, road, energy and telecommunications.

In the area of monetary integration, the President said that a revised road map has been adopted by the Presidential Task Force of regional leaders on the single currency programme in 2018 while a special fund was also established to fund activities under the road map.

He also praised the theme of the conference, Economic Integration of West Africa: challenges and prospects, as ‘appropriate considering the various challenges that face our region today, as political and social instability remain a major concern manifested by extremist and armed groups operating in some parts of the region while unemployment, poverty and food security also remain challenges.

Consequently, he urged the delegates to address the issues of the ineffective implementation of Community texts, non compliance by some Member States of the Community Levy Scheme, the negative impacts of exogenous shocks on the national economies of Member States and the fragile political and security situations in some Member States.

In her speech, the Chief Justice of Ghana, Her Lordship, Sophia Abena Boafoa Akuffo, described the choice of this year’s international conference theme as “central to the economic integration objectives of the Community as integration has economic and legal dimensions.”

‘The law is an imperative dimension to the attainment of the Economic Integration objectives of the Community and requires a solid legal normative framework and a strong regional judicial forum,” she added.

In this regard, she advocated for the strengthening of the Court  “as the principal legal organ of the Community to enable it play the expected role in the integration process of the Community including the restoration of the membership of the Court to the previous seven and the extension of their tenure to seven years instead of the present four years non-renewable to align it with those of  other regional Courts.

She equally called for the “establishment of an international tribunal to deal with crimes in the region or in the alternative empower the ECOWAS Court to deal with such cases,’ while a stronger mechanism should be developed for the resolution of disputes relating to regional integration, including the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme.

In his remarks, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr. Moustapha Cisse Lo, equally lauded the Court for the robust exercise of its mandates towards the achievement of regional integration, noting its ‘audacious decisions’ that have strengthened its role in the protection of the human rights of the Community citizens.