The Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, on July 10, 2024, declared that the dismissal of Mr. Momodu Cham, a former staff of the ECOWAS Commission was unlawful and not in compliance with Article 69 of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

The Applicant, Mr. Momodu Khalipha Cham, a community citizen residing in Banjul, Republic of Gambia, filed an application, against ECOWAS Commission and its president respectively the first and second Respondents, challenging his unlawful suspension and subsequent dismissal from his position as a Procurement Officer with the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing (GIABA), a specialised agency of ECOWAS.

Justice Dupe Atoki, the Judge Rapporteur who delivered the judgment said that the cessation of Mr. Cham’s salary before the exhaustion of the appeal process was arbitrary, unlawful, null, and void, contrary to Article 73(b) of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations. However, the judge said that the Court declined the orders for mandatory injunctions and reinstatement.

In regard to compensation, the Court ordered the Respondents to pay Mr. Cham his salary arrears and other entitlements from January 2021 to June 2021. Additionally, it ordered the payment of Mr. Cham’s salaries and emoluments from July to December 2021 as compensation for the unlawful dismissal.

In this case, the Applicant narrated that Mr. Cham was suspended on July 11, 2019, following a forensic audit report by Ernst and Young UK, which implicated him in irregularities related to the purchase of IT equipment for GIABA. He said that on January 26, 2021, Mr. Cham was summarily dismissed, and his salaries and emoluments were withheld in violation of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations. Mr. Cham sought several reliefs, including the Declaration that his dismissal was arbitrary, null, and void; an Order setting aside his dismissal; an Order for the immediate payment of his salary arrears and other entitlements from January 2021. The applicant also asked for his reinstatement to his position as a Procurement Officer and compensation for costs incurred in prosecuting the suit.

The Respondents, in their defense, maintained that Mr. Cham was properly suspended and dismissed following a forensic audit report and a subsequent query. They argued that the dismissal was appropriate due to allegations of gross misconduct, embezzlement, theft, fraud, and abuse of trust.

In its judgment, the Court determined that requesting an on-the-spot response to charges without prior notice or an opportunity to prepare a defense violates procedural safeguards outlined in the ECOWAS Staff Regulations. Consequently, the summary dismissal of the Applicant by the second Respondent breached Article 69 of these regulations.

Additionally, the Court emphasised that the regulations are designed to ensure an Applicant’s rights are fully maintained until the Council’s final decision. Therefore, the cessation of the Applicant’s salary and other emoluments after invoking the right of appeal is a violation of Article 73(b) of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

Also, on the three-member panel were Honourable Justices Gberi-bè Ouattara, presiding, and Sengu Mohamed Koroma, member.