The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States has appealed to Nigeria and the 14 other member states of the regional body not to disregard its decisions often made to salvage the fate of poor citizens.
The President of the court, Justice Jerome Traore, who made this appeal during the official opening ceremony of the 2017/2018 legal year of the court in Abuja on Monday, said a court judgment had no value if not implemented.
The ceremony, with the theme, ‘Current trends in international and regional commercial arbitration’ was attended by the representatives of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Bello; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijat Buka; Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cisse Lo.
Director of Legislation, Ministry of Justice of Cameroon, Kenfack Douaji, was the guest speaker.
Our correspondent gathered that failure of member states to enforce or obey the decisions of the court is among the major challenges facing the court since its establishment in 2001.
Recently, the court ordered the release of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) being detained by the Department of State Service but the order was not obeyed.
Justice Traore said on Monday that “judicial efficiency” was not limited to justice delivered in reasonable time, but also had to do with enforcement of court decisions.
He noted that there could not be judicial efficiency without the enforcement of the court orders.
“Now to talk of judicial efficiency is to talk first of all of justice delivered in reasonable time.
“Our English-speaking friends rightly say ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’, don’t they?
“Thus, ‘dilligence’ which does not sacrifice serenity on the altar of speed is, without doubt, a guarantee of quality and judicial process.
“Again, to talk of judicial efficiency, is to talk of enforcement of court decisions in the best possible time and in good faith.”
He also noted that failure of member states to obey or enforce the judgment of the court was as retrogressive as reducing the number of judges of the court when the number of cases filed before the court was on the rise.
He said, “To retrogress, in the prevailing circumstances, is to reduce the number of judges, whereas the number of cases coming before the court keeps rising on a daily basis, with possible unpleasant consequence of the proceedings getting stalled, to the point of discouraging even the most diligent and most determined litigant.
“To take steps backwards also implies disregarding the decisions made by the court and thus leaving the poor victims to their fate.
“So a court decision has value only when it is implemented.”
Giving indication that there were ongoing efforts to institute the principle of a “two-tier operation” by including an appellate chamber where the decisions of the court could be appealed against, Justice Traore said there was no justification to dismantle or “suffocate” the court.
The Chief Registrar of the court, Mr. Tony Anene-Maidoh, said since the inception of the court, a total of 318 cases had been lodged before the court, adding that the court had held a total of 779 court sessions within the period.
He said the court had since delivered 249 decisions consisting of 145 judgments, 104 rulings, 17 revision judgments and four advisory opinions.
He said the court had 35 court sessions in the last legal year, between September 16, 2016, and September 30, 2017.
He said a total of 37 cases were filed before the court while six decisions consisting of two judgments and four rulings were delivered by the court.
He said there were 98 pending cases before the court.
Malami, represented by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata, among other speakers pledged support for the court.