ECOWAS Tasks Members on Conflict Prevention, Says Instability, Insecurity Overwhelming Region

ECOWAS Tasks Members on Conflict Prevention, Says Instability, Insecurity Overwhelming Region

* As CJN pledges to address situation threatening region’s judicial system

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Mr Omar Touray, has called on members of the community, especially those in the justice sector, to do all within their powers to prevent conflict in the region.

Touray, who made the call on Tuesday in Abuja, lamented that incidents of instability and insecurity are currently overwhelming the community.

He was speaking at the opening of a three-day Statutory Meeting of the ECOWAS Judiciary Council.

The president, while observing that the community court over the years has been a reference point for ECOWAS institutions, as well as individuals, entities and governments

in search of advice, arbitration and adjudication, lamented that the enforcement of the judgments of the Community Court has remained a major issue in the effective delivery of the mandate and responsibility of the judicial institution to the community citizens. 

“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. 

“It is therefore crucial to institutionalise a more regular meeting of the Judicial Council to ensure that the activities of the court benefit from the regularly review and guidance of the council,” Touray said.

He however expressed joy that the ECOWAS Court has become an exemplary institution, which is being emulated by other regional courts in the continent.

In his welcome address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, pledged that the ECOWAS Judicial Council under his leadership, “will continue to pay special attention to addressing situations that threaten the judiciary system in West Africa and organization of our Community Court of Justice. In fact, this is a priority for the region, when we consider that justice is a fundamental pillar of society development”.

The CJN, who presided over the meeting being attended by Chief Justices of West African countries, for the first time, observed that though the council is not widely known like other bodies, it has been playing crucial roles in maintaining the rule of law and justice within the region.

“In addition, the ECOWAS Judicial Council plays a crucial role in the resolution of disputes among member states, ensuring that conflicts are resolved peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law,” adding that by so doing, the council contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region.

He pointed out that the objective of the statutory meeting was to review the legal framework of the community’s judicial council, look deeply on their responsibility and suggest areas of improvement.

Ariwoola also called for the harmonization of laws and legal practices so as to promote regional integration and cooperation.

He however identified inadequate funding, capacity constraints and the need to bolster cooperation among member states as some of the challenges confronting the council.

“However, these challenges also present opportunities for innovation and collaboration, as we work together to overcome shared obstacles and build a brighter future for our region,” he added.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), charged the ECOWAS Court of Justice to pay attention to the peculiarities of member states and refrain from issuing orders and judgments that are practically incapable of enforcement. 

The AGF said there is a dire need to promote and deepen alternative dispute resolution measures within the West African region. 

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

Fagbemi said the extensive jurisdiction conferred on the ECOWAS Court calls for recruitment of jurists with extensive experience, expertise, high moral character and discipline. 

He stressed the need for the Community Court of Justice to undergo necessary reforms to bring it in tandem with the current emergencies and manage the challenges associated with justice delivery in the region.

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