FG to ECOWAS Judges: Help Stem Military Incursion into Governance

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The federal government has called on justices in west Africa to come up with measures that would help eradicate factors encouraging the incursion of the military into governance.

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who gave the charge yesterday, at the opening of the Statutory Meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Judicial Council, in Abuja, stated that democratic system of governance has come under intense pressure in recent times.

He said: “The ECOWAS Judicial Council also stands in a pole position to work towards the promotion of rule of law and democratic governance, which has come under intense pressure in recent times. The judiciary should rise to the occasion in helping to stem the factors that precipitate military incursion into governance.

“The process of adherence to conduct of free and fair elections and constitutional governance must be protected,” Fagbemi added.

Meanwhile the AGF, noted that the challenges confronting the judiciary or the justice system in general across the states were identical in terms of judicial autonomy, provision of funding and infrastructural facilities for the courts, among others.

He also stated that the member States also share the challenges confronting the region in terms of economy, migration, integration, insecurity, enforcement of fundamental rights, etc.

“I therefore humbly enjoin your Lordships to utilize this regional platform, as an avenue for peer review and cross-fertilization of ideas, to address these issues in order to achieve greater independence of the judiciary, a more prosperous and safer sub-region.

“It is also considered apt for this body of distinguished jurists to also initiate a reform-oriented review of the practice and procedure of the ECOWAS Court of Justice to avoid conflicts with national courts and to make the court realize envisioned potential as a respectable regional.

“As the ECOWAS block continues to work towards achieving uniform economic policies and institutions, the judiciary should not be left behind. Your Lordships, permit me to state that the ECOWAS Judicial Council should also provide credible network for promotion of uniform rules of practice and procedure in the administration of justice.

“This is in order to reduce conflict of laws in the region. The Council can also look into running exchange programs amongst judicial officers for capacity building and promotion of cooperation and integration within the sub-region,” he added.

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

He charged member states to work towards safeguarding the principles of justice, upholding the rule of law, and advancing the cause of peace and prosperity.

He called on members of the council to reflect on the progress, challenges facing the court, and the opportunities that lie ahead.

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

 Ariwoola urged participants at the meeting to contribute meaningfully to the deliberations for the two days ahead and develop concrete recommendations to be sent to the Authority of Heads of State and Government to improve regional justice delivery in the sub-region through the ECOWAS Court.

In his speech, the President of the Community Court of Justice Eward Amoako Asante restated the commitment of ECOWAS Judicial Council to upholding the principles of justice, equity 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.

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