AGF Cautions ECOWAS Court Against Unenforceable Judgments

Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has urged the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice to avoid issuing orders and judgments that are impractical to enforce. He emphasized the importance of considering the unique circumstances of member countries within the regional bloc.

The effectiveness of the ECOWAS court has been significantly hampered by difficulties in enforcing its judgments and orders. During the first regular session of the 5th Economic Community of West African States Parliament in Abuja on May 9, 2023, the President of the Court, Edward Asante, revealed that over 106 decisions made by the Court, accounting for 70 per cent, have yet to be implemented by member states. Additionally, Asante noted that 11 court rulings against ECOWAS had not been adhered to.

Speaking at the Statutory ECOWAS Judicial Council meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, Fagbemi urged the court to bolster its jurisdiction while minimizing unnecessary conflicts with the domestic laws of member states.

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, however, said the court needs reforms to address challenges in delivering justice in the region.

ECOWAS, others to promote African products at trade fair 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.”

Speaking, 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 that this has 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 organization 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 has 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.”