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FG calls for a review of the practice and procedure of the ECOWAS court to avoid conflicts with national courts

From Kayode Lawal, Abuja

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) on Monday directed the ECOWAS Judicial Council to initiate a reform-oriented review of the practice and procedure of the ECOWAS Court of Justice to avoid conflicts with national authorities . courts and to enable the court to realize its intended potential as a respectable regional court.

Fagbemi, who made the allegation in Abuja, while speaking at the opening ceremony of the statutory meeting of the ECOWAS Judicial Council, said the Council must also provide a credible network for the promotion of uniform rules of practice and procedure in the administration of justice to address the conflict of law in the region.

He said the ECOWAS Judicial Council is well positioned to work to promote the rule of law and democratic governance, which have come under great pressure in recent times.

According to Fagbemi, the judiciary should not be left behind as the ECOWAS bloc continues to work towards achieving uniform economic policies and institutions.

He said the challenges faced by the judiciary or the legal system in general in the West African states are identical in terms of judicial autonomy, provision of funding and infrastructural facilities for the courts, among others.

In the same vein, he said, Member States also share the challenges facing the region in the areas of economy, migration, integration, insecurity and enforcement of fundamental rights.

The AGF charged the ECOWAS Judicial Council to use the regional platform, as a means of peer review and cross-pollination of ideas, to address the issues to achieve greater independence of the judiciary and a more prosperous and secure sub-region.

Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the ECOWAS Judicial Council and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, said the Council is working towards ensuring a just and equitable society.

He instructed the Member States to work towards this
protecting the principles of justice, upholding the rule of law and advancing the cause of peace and prosperity.

He called on Council members to reflect on progress, the challenges facing the Court and the opportunities that lie ahead.

“Let us reaffirm our commitment to the protection of human rights, the promotion of regional integration and the resolution of disputes through peaceful means.”

Judge Ariwoola urged the participants of the meeting to make meaningful contributions to the deliberations for the next two days and to develop concrete recommendations that can be sent to the authority of Heads of State and Government to strengthen the regional administration of justice in improve the sub-region through the ECOWAS Court.

In his address, the President of the Community Court of Justice, Eward Amoako Asante, reiterated the commitment of the ECOWAS Judicial Council to uphold the principles of justice, equality and the rule of law within the ECOWAS community.

Since its inception, he said, the ECOWAS Court of Justice has served as a beacon of hope for the people of West Africa, providing a platform for the resolution of disputes and the protection and enforcement of
fundamental rights.

He said that at the last meeting of the Judicial Council in Abuja in February this year, the Council established two important committees with clear terms of reference and tasked them to report to the plenary with
their recommendations.

One of the committees had the specific task of investigating possible ways to improve the enforcement of judicial decisions
others to revise the Council’s rules of procedure to better facilitate this
activities.

He said that the Court, as a beneficiary of all the Council’s innovative measures, has deployed three senior staff to assist the Council Secretariat in facilitating the work of the committees.

While commending the Council’s efforts to ensure the effective implementation of the Court’s decisions, he stated that the current normative framework allowing Community citizens to access the Court without first exhausting local remedies
is not, and should not be seen as, that the ECOWAS court has not
pretend that they have jurisdiction over the national courts, but that is not the case either
is it in competition with national courts?

“Parties have a choice as to which court they wish to access, and where they have access to both the ECOWAS Court and the National Court at the same time, the ECOWAS Court will retain its role.
hands and order them to try the case in court
National Court”.

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