The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ) opened for its 2016-2017 Legal Year on Friday, September 30.
The opening ceremony, held at the seat of the court in Abuja, Nigeria, afforded stakeholders an opportunity to receive the plans, programs, progress and challenges of the court for the past and new terms, and its up-to-date cumulative judicial scorecard.
A dispatch from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says officials of ECOWAS institutions, members of the diplomatic corps, senior officials of the Federal Government of Nigeria as well as officials from the Nigerian Bar Association, among others, attended the ceremony.
Six of the seven judges of the court attended Friday’s opening ceremony, including Liberia’s Justice Micah Wilkins Wright, who was recently elected in June of this year as the court’s new Vice President.
The others are Justice Jerome Traore (Burkina Faso), the former Dean of the Court, who was also recently elected as its new President; Justice Hameye Foune Mahalmadane (Mali); new Dean, Justice Friday C. Nwoke (Nigeria); Justice Yaya Boiro of Guinea; and Justice Alioune Sall (Senegal). Justice Maria Do Céu Silva Monteiro (Guinea Bissau), immediate past President, was absent due to family issues.
This year’s theme is “The Role of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in The Fight Against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Within The West African Sub-Region—A Perspective from GIABA.”
Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Prof. Al-Hassan Conteh, in his goodwill message commended the court’s diligent jurisprudence as set out in the official journals and law reports that the court regularly sends the ECOWAS Ambassadors for transmission to Member States.
Ambassador Conteh, also the Coordinator of ECOWAS Ambassadors, stated, “Please rest assured that we [ECOWAS Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives] will continue to do our utmost in supporting the court by bringing our concerns to our Member States for swift ratification in keeping with Community Laws and the new vision of ECOWAS of People.”
In his opening speech, the President of the Court said the selection of the theme demonstrates the court’s interest and determination to contribute its quota in the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism within the sub region.
“The combined effort of these two forms of scourge is that they put the brakes on the economic development of our states. This double-headed scourge must therefore be combated at all cost; and the court, in its capacity as the principal legal organ of ECOWAS, cannot remain on the sidelines of this battle, which is being fought almost all over the world, and notably within our ECOWAS space, for almost two decades,” Justice Traore said.
For his part, the Director-General of GIABA, Col. Adama Coulibaly, who served as the guest speaker, said that GIABA’s mandate is focused on ensuring effective implementation of acceptable measures on international anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.
Col. Coulibaly, who spoke through a representative, noted that GIABA is concerned about the fact that almost 15 years after the adoption of the ECOWAS Protocol for the Prevention of Corruption, the protocol is yet to be entered into force due to lack of ratification.
GIABA is Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa.
Providing the overall judicial statistics, the Chief Registrar of the court disclosed that since its inception in 2001, a total of 271 cases have been lodged before the court. He explained that since then 136 judgments, 100 rulings, 17 revisions of judgments and 4 advisory opinions have been delivered.
“A total of 694 court sessions have been held,” Mr. Tony Anene-Maidoh informed the audience.
The mandate of the ECOWAS court is to serve as an unbiased arbiter of justice in the ECOWAS sub-region by interpreting community legal texts, as well as arbitrating cases emanating from community institutions, Member States and community citizens. The court’s mandate is provided by the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, and its Supplementary Protocols and Regulations.
A high percentage of the judicial activity of the court is based on its human rights mandate.