Court President hails nine-day external session in Abidjan as one of the most successful

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,” Honorable 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 affords the Court the opportunity to deepen collaboration with the national courts of Member States as the regional integration process cannot be fully achieved without a harmonious relationship between the Court and national courts and a clear definition of their relationship as the Court relies on national courts for the enforcement of its judgments.

“Therefore, the national courts of Member States and the ECOWAS Court of Justice form the corner stone 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 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, is 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 will provide the enabling legal environment for the attainment of Community objectives, particularly since ECOWAS has 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 supranationality of ECOWAS and the need for them to abide by their treaty obligations to the Community, “ he added.

This he said, will be 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 in order to provide the enabling legal environment for the region’s integration process.

As a Community institution, Justice Asante said the Court is 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 requires 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 clearly provides that the judgments of Court are binding on all Member States, Institutions of the Community, corporate bodies and individuals in order to address the ‘ 30 percent unsatisfactory rate of compliance,’ of the Court’s decisions.

Under the Protocol on the Court, only six the 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 have not done so, “particularly the Government of Cote d’Ivoire to appoint the competent national authority as soon as possible.”

In the preceding vote thanks, the Vice President, Honorable 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.