|President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called for the harmonisation of the legal and judicial systems of countries within the ECOWAS region to create a community legal order and further the integration agenda of the regional body.
He said although the bloc had recorded many achievements since its establishment in 1975, the absence of a community legal order, coupled with the poor rate of enforcement of the judgments of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, were among its challenges. “National sovereignties should not be an impediment to the realisation of our community objectives. All that is needed is the necessary political will,” he said. President Akufo-Addo, who is Chair of the ECOWAS Authority, made the call at the opening of the External Court Session of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Accra yesterday. He called on the ECOWAS member states to ensure that they complied with their treaty obligations by observing and obeying the judgments of the Community Court of Justice to build public confidence in the court. “All member states that are yet to appoint their competent national authorities for the enforcement of the judgments of the court are respectfully urged to do so without further delay. Ghana on her part, has designated the office of the Attorney General as her national authority,” he said. President Akufo-Addo noted with regret, the insecurity and terrorism in some parts of the region and expressed dismay over the unconstitutional overthrow of the governments in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Under the ECOWAS protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, he said it was not right to overthrow any government within the bloc through means other than free, fair and transparent elections “It also provides zero tolerance for power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means,” he said and indicated that ECOWAS would not relent on its efforts to reestablish democratic and constitutional governance in the three suspended nations.
For his part, the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah said the two-week external ECOWAS Court session would offer members of the Ghana Bar Association and judges, the opportunity to observe an international court in session and to learn more about the practice and procedure of the court.
Justice Yeboah commended the President of the Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, a Court of Appeal judge in Ghana and his colleagues for delivering 25 rulings and 114 judgements since their assumption of duty in 2018.
He said the mandate of the court and those of other ECOWAS states were clearly different; and that the two were not in competition but there was room for collaboration.
President of the Court, Justice Asante said the court was in Ghana to bring justice to the grassroots of “our community and to give lawyers and the common man in the street, the opportunity to observe a Regional International Court like the ECOWAS Court in session.”
Among other things, Justice Asante said the session was a useful tool to create awareness about the court, its mandates, jurisdiction, and practice and procedures.
During the course of the two-week session, Justice Asante noted that the court would hear 60 cases and deliver 25 judgements with most cases emanating from Ghana and neighbouring member states.
Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, said that ever since Ghana gained independence in 1957, she had been the beacon of the quest for self-government, democracy, good governance and generally, the rule of law in Africa.
Whilst commending the expansion of the jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court, Mr Dame observed that the court was dominated by suits by individuals and non-governmental organisations alleging human rights violations.
He said there ought to be a strategy for boosting the number of cases invoking the court’s jurisdiction on account of migratory issues, non-tariff and other unfair trade measures adopted by countries in the West African community as part of a broader strategy to enhance the court’s originally conceived role as an engine for integration.
BY YAW KYEI &MALIK SULLEMANA