President of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Edward Asante, says the reduction in the number of judges from seven to five has affected the operations of the court.
Asante made this known on Monday at the opening of the four-day International Conference of the Court in Praia, Cape Verde, calling for the appointment of more judges for effective delivery.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the international conference themed “ECOWAS Integration Model: The Legal Implications of Regionalism, Sovereignty and Supra-nationalism aims at strengthening regional integration through an effective judicial system
Asante said that the reduction in the number of the ECOWAS Court’s judges from seven to five is one of the constraints affecting the operations of the court.
He added that the reduction of the tenure of the judges from five years renewable, to four years non-renewable is also not in the interest of the Court or the Community.
“The reduction of the number of judges of the Court from seven as provided for in the initial Protocol on the Court to five in 2018, is of grave concern to us.
“And it is having an adverse effect on the operations of the Court.
“Despite the best efforts of the current set of judges, the number of cases pending before the Court continues to grow astronomically.
“In the light of the increasing caseload of the Court, it is obvious that a Court composed of only five members cannot cope.
“It is also difficult to form more than one chamber in the Court, since a chamber requires a minimum of three judges.
“It is therefore suggested, that the Member States should consider restoring the composition of the Court to seven Members as provided for in the initial Protocol on the Court as soon as possible.
“Secondly, the reduction of the tenure of the judges from five years renewable, to four years non-renewable, is also not in the interest of the Court or the Community,
“As there is no International Court or tribunal that has such an abridged tenure for its judges.
“It is not advisable to model the tenure of the judges of the Court in line with that of the tenure of the commissioners in the Commission, who are political appointees.
“There is no Regional Economic Community (REC) that has this model, since the tenure of judicial officers is different from the tenure of political appointees,” Asante said.
Asante said that the complete renewal of the Membership of the Court, as was done in 2014 and 2018, as opposed to the staggered tenure of the judges as envisaged under the initial Protocol, is also not in the interest of the Court and the Community.
This, the ECOWAS Court President said, could lead to compete loss of institutional memory.
Asante also lamented the poor rate of compliance with the judgments of the Court, which currently stands at about thirty percent, stating that is of grave concern to the Court.
He said that only six of the Member States have appointed competent national authorities for the enforcement of the judgments of the ECOWAS Court.
He appealed to Member States to set up competent national authorities that will ensure compliance of the ECOWAS Court’s judgments.
“We regret that only six Member States have appointed the competent national authorities for the enforcement of the judgments of the Court in their respective Member States.
“These are the Republic of Guinea, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo and Ghana. We will continue to appeal for the remaining Members States to do the needful.
“And I hope that this International Conference here in Cabo Verde, will result in the appointment of its Competent National Authority as our 2019 Conference in Ghana did that magic,” Asante said. (NAN)