Enforce judgments of ECOWAS Court – President Akufo-Addo urges Members States

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By Lizzy Okoji

President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana have urged Member States to comply and enforce with decisions and judgments of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ) for a stronger integration of the region.

Akufo-Addo made the call at the opening of the 11th External Session of the ECOWAS Court in Accra, Ghana which was joined virtually by reporters of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Akufo-Addo said that Court’s best efforts at delivering on its mandate were being constrained by the poor rate of enforcement which stands at 30 per cent.

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“Unless Member States comply with the judgments of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, it will be difficult to build public confidence in the court.

“I appeal to all Member States to ensure that they comply with their Treaty obligations by serving and obeying the judgments of the Court,” Akufo-Addo said.

Akufo-Addo urged Member States that have not done so to appoint their competent national authorities for the enforcement of the judgements of the Court.

Akufo-Addo who is also Chair of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government urged the national authorities to comply in line with Article 24 (4) of the 2005 Supplementary Protocol on the Court.

He said that the provision requires Member States to ‘determine the competent national authority for the purpose of receipt and processing of execution and notify the Court accordingly.

As part of the restructuring of the Community and its institutions, Akufo-Addo said that it was time to revisit the 2018 reduction in the number of judges of the Court from the seven provided in the initial Protocol on the Court to five in 2018.

He noted that by strengthening the Court, the Community will be providing the enabling legal environment for the integration of the region.

“We must refocus the judicial mandate of the Court to hasten the integration process (and) it is time for a Community legal order and the harmonisation of the legal and judicial systems of Member States.

“National sovereignty should not be an impediment to the realisation of our Community objectives… all that is needed is the necessary political will,” Akufo-Addo said.

President of the Court, Justice Edward Asante commended the Republic of Ghana for hosting the session.

He notes the presence of the country’s President, political and judicial actors demonstrates the country’s respect for the rule of law.

Asante said that such sessions enable ECOWAS citizens to observe the court in session, bring justice to the grassroots, particularly for indigent applicants who cannot afford the cost of travelling to Abuja.

“These External Sessions enable the court to create awareness of its mandate, jurisdiction, practice and procedure in order to enable citizens take ownership of the Court.

“The two-week session is one of the key activities of the Court in line with Article 26 (1) of the Protocol on the Court.

“Which allows it to sit in the territory of another Member State where the circumstances or facts of the case so demand,” Asante said.

Asante emphasised that the regional court is not an appellate court over national courts although they exercise concurrent jurisdiction in respect of human rights.

He explained that the ECOWAS Court only entertain complaints of human rights violations that pertain to the international and Community obligations which Member States are signatory.

“Therefore, we are only concerned with Applications against Member States in respect of their Treaty obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights obligations within their territories,” he added.

Asante also expressed the ‘deep concern’ of the Court on the challenge of the poor enforcement of its decisions by national courts.

This he also explains arises mainly from the lack of domestication of the 1993 Revised Treaty and Protocols on the Court by some Member States.

“Other militating circumstances include the lack of implementing legislation in Member States that will empower national courts to recognise and enforce the judgments of the court, resulting in the States enforcing the decisions at their convenience.

“The absence of referrals from national courts on issues related to integration and on which the regional Court has exclusive jurisdiction is also a challenge,” Asante said

NAN reports that Sixty cases are listed for the session with 26 of them scheduled for judgment. (NAN)

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