ECOWAS Court Vows to Oppose Reduction in the Number of Judges


Says 87 cases pending before it
Adedayo Akinwale

The Community Court of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has vowed to oppose the reduction in the number of its judges from seven to five, saying 87 cases are presently pending before it.

The court insisted that there was need for it to jealously ensure its independence, adding that the court was shaken by a process of reforms being carried out without taking into account the opinion of the court.

The President of the court, Justice Jerome Traore, disclosed this at the weekend in Nasarawa State, while declaring close the ninth judicial retreat with the theme; ‘The ECOWAS Court of Justice: Prospects for Growth’.

According to him, “all the participants at the retreat regret this decision of reducing the number of judges. The retreat has discussed at length about this issue because as you know, cases are increasing at the court of justice and you know that one of the purpose of the court is to deliver justice timely. By reducing the number of judges from seven to five will now create a lot of problems adds to the time for the delivery of the judgment.”

Traore noted that some of the recommendations arrived at include reviewing this decision by the political arm of ECOWAS because cases are increasing in the court; and also the issue of having an appellate chamber, which according to the treaty could play a role of a court of arbitration.

“With all these elements, we believe that the civic society, the jurists, the NGOs should also take ownership of this decision and make the society understands it for the advantage of everybody to see the court of justice at least to maintain the number of judges if not to increase,” he said.

He said the court would embark on serious sensitisation mission to bring the member states mission to appoint the authorities in charge of the execution of court decisions, stressing that only four member states have appointed authorities to enforce the decisions of the court.

Also, the Director of Research, Communication and Documentation, Dr. Usman Diallo, said the theme of the retreat was chosen because of the institutional reforms currently going on in the community.
He stressed that, “this would cause many difficulties to the court. As it is today, the court has more than 87 cases, so the court cannot cope with all these work with only three or four judges working.

“We would like to oppose that decision to keep the number of judges to seven. I would like to point out something, when the commissioners of the ECOWAS Commission was nine, the court had only seven judges. When they put the number of commissioners to 15, the court remains with seven judges and now they want to bring the number of commissioners to nine, that doesn’t mean they have touched on the number of judges,” Diallo said.

He stated categorically that the growth of the court would come from the establishment of sub registries in the member states for justice to be close to the citizens of the community.
“We have to device a means whereby they can stay at home and be filing their application before the court. That’s why this retreat has also looked at e-filing.”