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Re-appointment of Professor Epiphany Azinge as a member, Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal

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Professor Ephiphany Azinge

On June 1, 2015, Professor Ephiphany Azinge (SAN) was appointed a member of the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT) for a period of four years. He has just been re-appointed for another term of four years as a nominee of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

This write-up is meant to situate the re-appointment of Professor Azinge (SAN) as a member of the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT).

In this context, to underscore the significance of this re-appointment and the honour done to Professor Azinge and Nigeria, we shall examine the establishment of the Commonwealth Secretariat and CSAT, the jurisdiction of the CSAT and the procedure for the re-appointment of members of the CSAT.

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The Commonwealth Secretariat, established in 1965, is an intergovernmental organization of 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire. It is a voluntary association of now independent states.

The states are in the following regions: Africa, Asia, Caribbean and Americas, Europe and the Pacific are diverse – they are among the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries. Thirty-one of the members are classified as small states – countries with a population size of 1.5 million people or less and larger states that share similar characteristics with them. All members subscribe to the Commonwealth values and principles outlined in The Commonwealth Charter. The African Region has the highest number of states followed by the Caribbean and Americas.

The Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal was established by the Commonwealth Governments vide Article I of the Statute of the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal. The Statute was adopted on July 1, 1995 and has been amended by the Commonwealth Governments on June 24, 1999, February 18, 2004, May 14, 2005, May 16, 2007 and May 28, 2015.

Article II of the Statute provides for the jurisdiction of the CSAT. Essentially the CSAT has jurisdiction to hear and determine any application brought by: (a) a member of staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat; (b) The Commonwealth Secretariat; (c) any other person who enters into a contract with the Commonwealth Secretariat; which alleges the non-observance of a contract in writing with the Commonwealth Secretariat and includes in relation to a contract of service the non-observance of the contract of employment or terms of appointment of such member of staff, and in relation to a contract for services the non-observance of the terms of the contract.

The CSAT also has jurisdiction to hear and determine an application involving an international or intergovernmental Commonwealth body or organization which meets the requirements set out in Annex A to the Statute.

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Annex B to the Statute deals with the Procedure for the Selection and appointment of Members of the CSAT. When a vacancy occurs or is about to occur, the Commonwealth Secretariat notifies Member Government in the Region(s) concerned, the Commonwealth Secretariat Staff Association and the Commonwealth legal fraternity and invites nominations.

At the end of the specified time period, the Commonwealth Secretariat compiles a list of the nominees proposed by Member Governments and circulates the list to Member Governments for their consideration and Commonwealth Secretariat Staff Association for its information.

Member Governments then meet to select the President or member as the case may be. Member Governments carry out the selection on a regionally representative basis taking into account the need for continuity and the maintenance of an appropriate gender balance.

In re-selecting members of the CSAT, Member Governments may take into account any views expressed by the Commonwealth Secretary General and the Commonwealth Secretariat Staff Association. The Commonwealth Secretary formally appoints the President or Member as the case may be to serve a period not exceeding four nears in the first instance. Members are eligible for re-appointment for another term of four years only. This is also provided for in paragraph 4 of Article IV.

In the case of Prof Azinge, he was nominated by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on behalf of the Nigerian Government. The nomination was sent to the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs who commenced the lobbying process in the African Region. From the African region, Member Governments sent Prof Azinge’s nomination to the Commonwealth Secretariat for consideration and approval. This is the procedure that produced Prof Azinge.

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Article IV of the Statute provides that the CSAT shall consist of eight members who shall be nationals of Commonwealth Member States and that no two members may be nationals of the same member State. Members of the CSAT shall be of high moral character and must: a) have held, hold or be qualified to hold high judicial office in a Commonwealth country; or (b) be jurisconsults of recognized competence with experience as such for a period of not less than ten years.

Professor Azinge met these requirements as a distinguished academic and undeniably a quintessential legal luminary.

The re-appointment to the Tribunal is a great honour. Thus Members are recognized as persons of high moral character who currently hold or have held high judicial office in a Commonwealth country or who are jurisconsults with at least 10 years’ experience. According to the provisions of paragraph 5 of Article IV of the Statute, the Tribunal hearing an application shall be composed of three members empanelled by the President.

Professor Azinge is in good company. The Acting President of CSAT is Mr. David Goddard, QC (New Zealand). Other members include Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop, CD (Jamaica), Justice Aruna Devi Narain (Mauritius) and Catherine Callaghan, QC (UK) More details on the CSAT can be found at www.thecommonwealth.org.

Professor Azinge has an intimidating profile. He was born on the 13th day of November 1957 in Aba, Abia State although he hails from Asaba, Oshimili South L.G.A of Delta State. He attended St. Patrick’s College, Asaba between 1970 and 1975 and then proceeded to the University of Lagos in 1976 where he obtained a degree of Bachelor of Laws with a Second Class Upper Division. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1980 and proceeded to the University of London for his LL.M degree specialising in Comparative Constitutional Law and Shipping Law in 1983 and completed his PhD in 1986 writing his doctoral thesis on “Electoral Laws in Nigeria.

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To demonstrate his extreme passion for education he taught at the University of Benin. He also taught at the Nassarawa State University free of charge. At the University of Benin, he held several positions in academics and administration.

Professor Azinge was appointed Special Assistant to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF) where he served from 1991 to 1997. He was elevated to the status of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2006. Professor Azinge has published extensively in diverse areas in local and international journals and also edited several books.

In May 2009, he was appointed the 5th Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies where he demonstrated outstanding passion for legal scholarship and education and edited over sixty three books and journals.

Outside his academic career, he is actively involved in community development. He is the Founder of The Sojourners Medicate Foundation, which he personally funds to help accident victims on the highway as well as award of scholarships to indigent Nigerians. He is a Member of the Nigerian Bar Association, International Bar Association and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

In recognition of his academic and administrative achievements, he was awarded honorary LLD in 2013 by the Commonwealth University, Belize and National Honour – Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 2014 by the Federal Government of Nigeria. He is a distinguished Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

Professor Azinge is happily married to Dr. (Mrs) Valerie Azinge (SAN) and they are blessed with four children.

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Professor Idornigie (SAN) writes from the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Abuja, Nigeria


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