ECOWAS court dismisses suit filed by a former Acting Director of the regional centre for surveillance and disease control

The ECOWAS Court has dismissed an application by a physician and former ECOWAS staff, Prof Abdulsalami Nasidi alleging the wrongful termination of his appointment as the Acting Director of the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control (RCSDC) by ECOWAS.

The President of the Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, who also served as the judge rapporteur read the judgment in which the court held that the purported appointment of the Applicant “falls short of the requirements of appointment envisaged under the general principles of staff employment and incapable of making the Applicant a staff of the Community who is entitled to remunerations and other benefits provided for and enjoyed by the staff members of the Community institutions…”

Consequently, the Court held that the Applicant could not be classified as a staff of Community institutions and therefore lacked the capacity to approach the Court for the reliefs sought from the Community.

In the initiating application ECW/CCJ/APP/23/17 filed before the Court by Messrs Audu Anuga, Samson Eigege, Rabiu Saidu, counsels to the Applicant, on June 22, 2017, the Applicant Abdulsalami Nasidi, a physician with over 32 years of experience, claimed that the first Respondent, the ECOWAS Commission appointed him as Acting Director of the centre on June 20, 2016 on a one-year contract.

He averred that the contract was still subsisting when he received two letters from the second Respondent, the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), a specialised agency of the ECOWAS informing him of the appointment of the third Respondent, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu to replace him as the Acting Director of the Centre.

He claimed that despite the diligent performance of his duties, he was neither paid any salary nor allowances.

Prof Nasidi urged the ECOWAS Court to declare the termination of his appointment as wrongful and unlawful and a breach of his term of appointment, and the purported appointment of the 3rd Respondent while his contract subsisted as null and void.

He equally demanded the payment of 244,528.05 USD being total sum of salaries and entitlements owed him and the sum of 500,000 USD as general damages.

But Mrs Uzoamaka Obidike, counsel to the Respondents, filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction and competence of the Court to hear the matter. The Counsel averred that the Applicant was a public officer in the service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while performing the duties of Acting Director. She said that pursuant to the Headquarters’ Agreement and other cited legal texts, the Applicant could not be employed in a capacity where he is entitled to such payments while he remained in the service of the Nigerian government.

The Respondent urged the Court to reject the reliefs sought by the Applicant and strike out the matter.

The preliminary objection of the Respondent and the substantive matter were determined together at the request of the Applicant.

On the bench with Justice Asante were Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara and Januaria Moreira Costa.