ECOWAS court laments poor enforcement of judgments
The President, Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, Justice Edward Asante, has lamented the poor level of enforcement of the court’s judgments by member states.
He spoke while last week in Abuja while receiving a network of lawyers and human rights activists from nine West African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, under the auspices of Public Interest Lawyering Initiative for West Africa (PILIWA).
Justice Asante noted that the issue of enforcement of the judgments of the ECOWAS court was so bad that only about three or four countries were making efforts to enforce the judgment of the Court.
Justice Asante said the court would rely heavily on institutions and civil society organizations to help expose the ills perpetuated by governments by not implementing court judgments.
“It is our wish that the civil society, especially professional groups, lawyers, would bear on the governments and various institutions so that they will comply with provisions of the amended protocol, to set up authorities in their governments and legal systems to enforce our judgments”, he said.
Currently, there are 12 matters due for judgment and which the court said were being worked on. According to the court, sitting dates for judgments have been fixed for November and December before the court proceeds on vacation.
Barrister Chima Williams, who spoke for PILIWA said the group was interested in plans by the Court to take steps towards making provisions for enforcement of decisions.
He said: “As we come from different countries in West Africa, it will be our duty to equally talk to our governments to say the rules for this court is due for review. Citizens who get judgments here should have it enforced
“We also call on the court to expand its jurisdictional reach and enforcement mechanisms to guarantee that citizens who look to the court when they are denied access to justice in their national jurisdictions are not left more confused after securing erudite judgments from the court.”
Justice Edward Asante, during a visit to the office of Nigeria’s Permanent Mission to ECOWAS, Abuja, stated that only Nigeria and Niger have significantly enforced the decisions of the Court so far.
The Community Court President therefore pledged to work with ECOWAS Member States and other stakeholders to fashion out mechanisms for improving on the level of enforcement of the decisions of the Court.
Justice Asante also requested the head of the ECOWAS Mission to help the Court in its ongoing effort to secure a suitable office accommodation from Nigeria government, which is obliged under the headquarters agreement between the Court and the country, to provide an accommodation for the Court.
Welcoming the Court President, Ambassador Babatunde Nurudeen of the ECOWAS Commission assured him that the Commission was ‘seized’ with the acute accommodation problem facing the Court and has engaged in an inter-ministerial effort towards its resolution.
He acknowledged that the reduction in the number of judges from seven to five has placed a heavy workload on the remaining judges.