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How nations’ disregard for domestic courts threatens continent’s justice system

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja Bureau Chief)
02 November 2021   |   2:23 am
African Union member states have called for a review of articles establishing the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR).

Nigeria justice

• Member states seek review of African Court articles to boost performance

African Union member states have called for a review of articles establishing the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR).

The position was made yesterday at the opening of the Conference on Implementation and Impact of Court’s Decisions in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Stakeholders from across Africa including Nigerians expressed concern over the state of the court and believed that a critical review of some of its articles will create the reform it seeks.

Prof. Sadiq S. Shakil particularly sought a review of Article 30 to include sanctions for failure to comply with the court’s decisions.

The university lecturer from Nigeria noted that the article does not have binding effects in terms of enforcement of its judgments.
He said: “Another one is Article 29, which provides that the committee of ministers, comprising foreign affair ministers of member states should monitor the implementation of the decision of the court without being given the power to enforce implementation.

“If that committee is to have any effect on implementation of the decisions of the court, my recommendation is that it should be given the enforcement power. It will go a long way in improving the state of the court.”

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria noted that while Nigeria is yet to deposit the declaration, the country’s constitutional framework poses greater challenge than the implementation of the decision of the court.

He said: “Section 12(1) of the Constitution stipulates that no treaty between Nigeria and any state would be binding on the Federal Government unless it is enacted into law by the National Assembly.

“And this protocol has not been enacted into law by the National Assembly. The implication is that its treaty is not binding on the federation, let alone of depositing the declaration, which is to recognise individuals and non-governmental organisation bringing actions before the court.”

Shakil added that if the provision of the court is inconsistent with the provision of the Constitution; that of the constitution will supersede.

“As noted by earlier speakers, if member states do not respect the decisions of their domestic courts, it will be a nightmare to expect them to respect the decision of supranational court,” he noted.

Earlier, President of the Court, Justice Imani D. Aboud, emphasised that the rationale for any justice system is enforceability of the outcome of disputes.

“Regardless of the legal system, country or parties to a dispute, it is the legitimacy of the adjudicatory body that comes under threat whenever a decision is disregarded,” he said.

The conference will culminate in a judicial dialogue, where chief justices of member states will meet to proffer ways forward for the continental judicial body. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, is expected to be in attendance.

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