The ECOWAS Court of Justice held a press conference on February 25, 2022 to conclude its weeklong sensitization campaign in Nigeria’s Kwara State during which a judge of the Court, Justice Dupe Atoki enumerated the activities undertaken during the campaign.

She told the media that the sensitization was held to create awareness on its existence and its operations/activities during which targeted forums, which addressed the specific needs of the various stakeholders, were held for the Judges, women, law students and lecturers as well as lawyers.

The mission commenced with courtesy visits on the Kwara State Chief Judge, Justice Suleiman Durosinlorun Kawu, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Salman Jawondo, a member of the country’s inner bar and the Chairman of the Ilorin chapter of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Barrister Ganiyu Bello.

The delegation also visited the Emir of Ilorin, His Royal Highness, Ibrahim Zulu Gambari, a former judge and the 11th traditional ruler of Ilorin who used the opportunity of the visit to propose the expansion of the Court’s mandate to enable it hear criminal matters arising from human rights violations.

The state governor, His Excellency, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, declared the campaign open on February 22, 2022.

The governor, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, His Excellency, Kayode Alabi, commended the initiative of the Court to increase its visibility within the sub region as this will impact immensely in promoting the rule of law essential to achieving “regional political and economic ties of the 15 member states of ECOWAS”.

He added that Kwara State has commenced infrastructural development along its boundary area with neighbouring ECOWAS member state – Republic of Benin, “to support trade and strengthen regional ties” as the one market and free trade initiative continues to gain grounds in the subregion and across the African continent.

The opening ceremony was followed by an open forum during which the Chief Registrar presented a paper that provided an overview of the Court and its Jurisdiction while a staff of the research unit spoke on the Human Rights Mandate of the Court, and Enforcement of Judgments of the Court.

On February 23, 2022, the Court held a judicial forum for judges, magistrates and judicial officers of Kwara State with the main focus on discussing the relationship between the ECOWAS Court and national courts.

In a presentation, the President of the Court at the forum, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, said that being an international court, the ECOWAS Court applies only international laws to which Member States are parties even in matters of human rights violations, a concurrent jurisdiction it shares with national courts, and it only entertains matters of human rights violations brought against an ECOWAS Member State.

In the presentation, which was delivered by Justice Atoki, the President said the ECOWAS Court lacks the powers to make declarations on judgments of national courts except for referrals from the national courts of Member States  on the interpretation of ECOWAS Community texts.

He added that the Court fosters close relationships and collaborates with national courts to ensure the realization of an integrated community legal order for the achievement of the economic integration of the region.

The session was followed by a separate forum for women which was attended by members of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS) and other civil society organization during which matters of human rights violations concerning women and children were highlighted and discussed with references to decided cases of the Court on women rights violations.

One of the classic cases cited was the Court’s judgment ECW/CCJ/JUD/06/08 concerning a Nigerien, Hadijatou Mani Karaou who was sold off as a slave girl and refused freedom after many years of slavery. Delivering its decision in the case, the Court held the government of Niger liable for breach of its obligation to uphold international treaties and conventions signed by it, which guaranteed freedom from slavery and discrimination against women among others. The Court ordered that she be released and awarded costs in her favour.

There was also a forum for lawyers on February 24, 2022 where presentations were made by staff of the Court on Mandate and Jurisdiction of the Court, Practice and Procedure of the Court, and How to file Cases before the Court.

Law students from the State owned and private university- Kwara State and Al-Hikmah universities also participated in a forum for law students which was also attended by law professors, lecturers and enabled them to gain insights on the Court including its collaboration with national courts to promote rule of law within its geographical space.

During the question and answer session of the press conference, the Chief Registrar of the Court, Mr Tony Anene-Maidoh, said that 583 cases have been lodged before the Court since its inception in 2001, out of which the Court has delivered 131 Rulings, 303 Judgments and given 6 Advisory Opinions.

He added that 179 cases were pending before the Court, 54 of them against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The delegation of the Court was led by the Vice President, Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara and included Justices Dupe Atoki, Keikura Bangura and Januaria Costa as well as the Deputy Chief Registrar, the Director, Administration and Finance and key staff of the Court.