The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Tunis, has called on presidents and leaders of West African Nations to ensure obedience to the Community Court of Justice’s ruling.
Giving a remark at the opening of the International Conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the court, Mr Tunis said that the attitude of selective adherence to the ruling of the court was also diminishing the reputation of the court.
Mr Tunis, who described the court as a beacon of regional justice, hailed the court for its numerous rulings, which have brought about changes in the sub-region.
“After 20 years, the Community Court continues to act as a beacon of regional justice, and we have already seen and heard how its decisions have led to myriad changes in law and practice across the West African sub-region,” he said.
The speaker, however, emphasised that non-adherence to most of its rulings by member states, who are signatory to the protocol that set up the court, was a disservice to the court and to West Africa.
“We take due cognizant of the fact that the reputation of the Court is being brought into disrepute by slow, partial, and even non-implementation of its ruling.
“The Community Court was established to ensure the observance of law and of the principles of equity in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Revised Treaty, as well as all other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by the Community.
“This, in the minds of the framers, would ensure the fair, impartial and independent administration of justice, so that each citizen is treated with respect, dignity and fairness, and receives a fair treatment in the application of our laws.
“Sadly, this is not the case. State Actors now decide which ruling or opinion of the court to honour. This does not just undermine the integrity of the Court but creates a serious reputational risk for ECOWAS,” he said.
He, therefore, called on Attorneys General in Member States to make concrete moves to ensure that the court and its ruling are accorded its pride of place in their countries.
“I reiterate my call on all Attorneys General in all Member States, to, as a matter of grave concern, not only to our people but to the International Community, urgently organise a special meeting to address this ugly trend.
“All Laws must be obeyed, and all court rulings must be adhered to. Failure to do so has the propensity to drift any society into anarchy,” Mr Tunis said.
Recalling that the parliament had celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020, the Parliament Speaker said that the organisation of such periodic conferences and law reviews will ensure best practices in the dispensation of justice.
He said that the parliament celebrates the success of the Court and its enviable records in overcoming the storms of discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, abuse of human rights across the region, as well as its comprehensive diagnosis and recommendations for reforms.
“The Court, as the custodian of fundamental rights and freedoms, is obliged to play a very significant role in consolidating the gains we have made in entrenching the rule of law in Member States and protecting against the arbitrary exercise of power.
“These key principles are characteristic of a society where the rule of law is upheld. However, one of our current challenges to the rule of law is a lack of public understanding as to what it really means.
“That is why the court is under continuous obligation to ensure that content of the laws should be accessible, reasonably clear and consistent,” he said.
The Speaker appealed to Justices of the court to do the region proud, stay united and resolved in the dispensation of Justice, while remaining an institution beyond reproach and independently doing the Peoples’ business.
He added the democracies in the sub-region could only be sustained through the community court, urging them to be guided as they make the critical decision that will have lasting implications for the sub-region.