Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada today enjoined the ECOWAS Court of Justice to ‘remain Independent, reliable, efficient and accessible as a veritable legal institution of the Community, playing a strategic role’ towards the creation of the enabling legal environment for the achievement of the objectives of the Community.

Unveiling the new building of the Court in the Gudu district of Abuja, the Nigerian capital, the Minister acknowledged the strategic role of the Court in the establishment and sustenance of such an environment which will foster the achievement of the aims and objectives of the Community.

Ambassador Dada assured that as ‘a responsible Member of ECOWAS, Nigeria will continue to ensure that it provides the necessary support and encouragement to all ECOWAS institutions and reiterated the country’s commitment to ensure that ‘our sub regional organisation remains the best in Africa, and indeed, one of the best in the world.

Alluding to concerns by the President of the Court about the low level of enforcement of the decisions of the Court, which stood at 30 per cent, the Minister urged Member States to provide all the necessary support to the Court that will enable it thrive and which will ensure that it continues to efficiently discharge and promote its judicial functions.

The Minister acknowledged the ‘rather harsh and difficult environment’ that the Court worked in prior to the movement to the new building provided by the host government in the discharge of its obligation to provide a ‘befitting edifice’ for the Court.

In a speech to the occasion, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello said the commissioning of the new building ‘lends credence to the long standing and cordial relationship’ with the Court which he described as an ‘exemplary ECOWAS institution’ and assured that the ministry will accede to the Court’s request for the renewal of the rent for the new building when it becomes due.

In the speech, which was read by the General Counsel to the ministry, Mr Mohammed Babangida Umar, the Minister said the ministry sees the Court, the Community’s judicial organ for the interpretation of its texts, as an ally in the protection of human rights, one of the Court’s four mandates.

In remarks earlier, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray said the new building ‘represents a significant milestone in the history of the Court and the ongoing efforts to strengthen the rule of law and promote human rights in the region.’

‘After several years,’ the President noted, ‘the ECOWAS Court is now positioned as a pivotal judicial institution that inspires the confidence of litigants,’ adding that the new office will enable the court to function efficiently and effectively.

He expressed optimism that the building will enable the court increase its capacity to hear cases, provide greater access to justice for the Community as well as promote the rule of law in the region.

In his welcome address, the President of the Court, Honorable Justice Edward Amoako Asante, said the relocation opens a new dawn in the life of the court and that beyond the more congenial physical environment for the staff, the new building offers the Court an opportunity for improved efficiency and productivity.

He recalled the decade long engagement by the Court with the host government for the provision of a more befitting replacement office for the Court as the previous office had ‘become hopelessly inadequate for the needs of the court as an international court mainly the increase in the number of staff among others.

‘The year 2016 marked a turning point in this engagement after the Honorable Minister of the FCT, through the active involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made a promise to a delegation of the Court who called on him, to rent a new office building as a temporary solution to the perennial accommodation challenge facing the Court, ‘he emphasised.

He commended the two Ministers for their critical roles in the realization of this dream which ‘should encourage the Court to expand its staff profile through additional recruitment to fill the vacancies in its organogram in order to leverage the additional skills for increased productivity in meeting the yearnings of the Community citizens and the fulfilment of its mandate.’

As part of the opening ceremony, which was attended by Judges and staff of the Court as well as ambassadors of ECOWAS Member States, guests were conducted around the building after the unveiling of the plaque.