The ECOWAS Community Court says 425 cases were lodged with it since its inception in 2001, according to the Chief Registrar of the Court, Tony Anene-Maidoh, who said this on Monday.
Mr Anene-Maidoh said at the opening of the 2019/2020 legal year of the Court in Abuja.
Of the cases lodged with the court by various aggrieved individuals and groups, he said 355 decisions have been reached.
The decisions include 220 judgments, 113 rulings, 18 revisions of judgments and four advisory opinions rendered during the period.
Also, he said 984 Court sessions were held, while 115 cases were currently pending before the Court.
The Chief Registrar described as ‘remarkable’ the productivity of the current college of judges who rendered 35 decisions, ”a new record for the Court, during the last legal year”.
Despite the enhanced productivity of the Court, he said the judges were working under very difficult conditions, including the reduction in their number from seven to five.
With the reduction, he said the workload of the judges has increased, ”their tenure has been reduced from five years renewable to four non-renewable”.
Other challenges, he said, include inadequacy number of translators and the ‘worrisome’ enforcement of the court’s decisions.
“The Protocol on the Court as amended gives member states the obligation to enforce decisions of the Court in accordance with Rules of Procedure of the concerned Member State and enjoins them to determine the competent national authority for the receipt and processing of the judgments of the Court,” he added.
He expressed disappointment that only five member states, mainly the Republics of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Togo and Nigeria have appointed competent national authorities for the enforcement of the decisions of the Court as prescribed by the Supplementary Protocol of the regional body.
Consequently, he appealed for member states to address the issue and revisit the reduction in the number of judges as well as reinstate the decision to stagger their tenure for greater efficiency and the retention of institutional memory.
The official expressed concern at the lack of referral to the Court by the National Courts of member states in line with the provisions of the Supplementary Protocol on the Court which has exclusive jurisdiction to entertain such referrals regarding the interpretation of Community texts.
The certainty and uniformity in the interpretation and application of ECOWAS Community texts, he said, can only be achieved if the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court in the interpretation of Community Texts is respected.
He expressed the hope that the new legal year will see the deepening of the fraternal relations between the Court and its stakeholders, ”mainly member states, Community institutions and development partners”.
The ceremony, attended by the chief judges of some member states and members of the diplomatic corps and partners, was the first by the present college of judges of the Court following their inauguration in 2018.