HomeNewsOnly Nigeria Shun ECOWAS Court's Judgments, SANs Fault AGF's Comment

Only Nigeria Shun ECOWAS Court’s Judgments, SANs Fault AGF’s Comment

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The Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), on Tuesday, called on the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice to refrain from issuing orders and judgments that are impossible to enforce.

But human rights lawyer and a former President of the West African Bar Association,  Femi Falana, (SAN), asked the AGF to speak only for himself, arguing that only Nigeria was culpable of shunning ECOWAS Court orders.

According to Falana, the Nigerian government has been shunning ECOWAS Court judgments by behaving as if the country is still under the military rule.

Similarly, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the ECOWAS Court had not made orders outside its jurisdiction, adding that the Federal Government must be blamed for shunning the orders of the regional court.

The effectiveness of the ECOWAS Court has been hindered significantly by challenges in enforcing its judgments and orders.

On May 9, 2023, during the first regular session of the 5th ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja, the President of the Court, Justice Edward  Asante,  stated that more than 106 decisions reached by the court,  representing 70 per cent, were yet to be implemented by the member states.

Asante added that 11 court rulings against ECOWAS were not complied with.

The AGF, while speaking on Tuesday in Abuja at the  Statutory ECOWAS Judicial Council meeting,  urged the ECOWAS court to strengthen its jurisdiction while limiting unnecessary conflict with the domestic laws of member states.

Fagbemi said the ECOWAS Court must pay attention to the peculiarities of countries in the regional bloc.

He said,  “The court must adopt strategies that strengthen its jurisdiction, whilst appreciating the jurisdictional boundaries of the court and limiting unnecessary conflict with domestic laws of member states.

“It is important for the court to pay attention to the peculiarities of member states and refrain from issuing orders and judgments that are practically incapable of enforcement. There is also a dire need to promote and deepen alternative dispute resolution measures within the region.”

He added that the court needed reforms to address challenges in delivering justice in the region.

Fagbemi said,  “It is, therefore, critical that the Community Court of Justice continues to undergo necessary reforms to bring it in tandem with the current exigencies and manage the challenges associated with justice delivery in the region. “

But speaking in a telephone interview with our correspondent, Falana said contrary to Fagbemi,  not all ECOWAS countries were disobeying the court’s order.

Falana said,  “With respect to the Honourable Attorney-General, not all ECOWAS member states disobey the judgments of the ECOWAS Court like Nigeria. From the information at my disposal, there is no judgment of the ECOWAS Court that has not been complied with by the Government of The Gambia.

“I once met President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana at an international conference in Accra. On his way out of the conference, I drew the attention of the President to a judgment of the ECOWAS Court that had not been complied with by the Government of Ghana. President Akufo-Addo asked me to submit a certified true copy of the judgment in his office. I did and there and then the President directed the Ministry of Finance to pay the judgment debt. The ministry implemented the directive of the President. “

Falana linked the coups in some West African countries to disregard for orders from domestic and regional courts.

He said, “The hostile disposition of African states to courts is essentially the same. African governments, including Nigeria, are yet to move away from the era of military and apartheid regimes when martial law was the order of the day. The rule of law is substituted for the rule of rulers. Not only are orders of courts disregarded, but judges who rule against governments are harassed by security forces. The same attitude has been extended to regional and international courts.”

Also speaking on the matter,  Ozekhome,  “It is rather the Federal Government of Nigeria that is disobeying ECOWAS Court orders. No other country indulges in such brazen impunity. Other countries diligently obey such orders. No order has been made by ECOWAS Court outside its legal mandate. It is not a court that hungers for jurisdiction. It restricts itself to matters presented and argued before it. Which orders have the Federal Government been known to have obeyed?”

Meanwhile, speaking at the ECOWAS event, the  Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who doubles as the chairman of the council, called on African leaders to use justice and equity to build a prosperous region for future generations.

He said this had become necessary given the economic, political, and leadership challenges engulfing the region at the moment.

The CJN said,  “As we look to the future, let us reaffirm our commitment to the ideals of justice, equality, and solidarity, and work together to build a more just and prosperous West Africa for generations to come.”

Ariwoola promised that, under his leadership, the council would focus on addressing issues affecting the West African judiciary.

He said,  “I would like to assure you that ECOWAS judicial council’s management under my leadership will continue to pay special attention to addressing situations that threaten the judiciary system in West Africa and the organisation of our Community Court of Justice. This is a priority for the region when we consider that justice is a fundamental pillar of society development.”

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, said, the region’s judiciary had an essential role to play in tackling instability and insecurity experienced in many countries of the region.

He said, “In this era, where instability and insecurity are overwhelming our community, the role of the justice sector is crucial in conflict prevention, through the promotion and defence of the rule of law and human rights.”

Punch

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