ECOWAS Court President defends region’s pre-occupation with politics

Justice Maria Do Céu Silva Monteiro

The President of the Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, Justice Maria Do Céu Silva Monteiro has said the region’s pre-occupation with political issues is necessary for creating an environment for sustainable economic development.

She said the Court was looking forward to a future where the region’s 15 member States would refer cases to it relating to the interpretation of community texts in line with its initial mandate.

According to a statement issued by the Commission and made available to the Ghana News Agency, Justice Monteiro gave the views when she interacted with the Head of Delegation of the European Union delegation to Nigeria, Ambassador Michel Arrion, in Abuja.

Justice Monteiro called for EU support in building the capacity of the Court and assistance for the region in the collective fight against the scourge of terrorism that has left citizens in palpable fear and negatively impacted on the region’s political and economic development.

She said the court was willing to leverage the experience of the EU in the enforcement of the decisions of its court and encouraging respect for human rights, assuring the Head of Delegation that the court will soon be able to take decisions in other areas of integration.

Ambassador Arrion who was on a visit to the Court suggested that West African leaders strengthen the role of the regional court in the area of economic integration so that it could play a more active role in regional integration similar to the role played by its EU counterpart.

This he said, could be done by expanding its mandate in the economic sphere so that it could act more vigorously in the defence of regional instruments designed to ensure the realisation of its core objective of economic integration.

The Court was established under the 1993 ECOWAS Revised Treaty as an interstate court with responsibility for interpreting Community instruments.  Through its 2005 Supplementary Protocol, citizens were granted direct access to the court which was also vested with jurisdiction for human rights cases and an arbitration mandate.

Ambassador Arrin acknowledged that ECOWAS has distinguished itself among Africa’s Regional Economic Communities mostly in the resolution of political issues in West Africa, an achievement that needs to be replicated in the political sphere, its core mandate.

He also suggested that ECOWAS revisit its decision making process where decisions are taken by consensus and look at the possibility of adopting the EU model where decisions are taken by qualified majority with consideration for the sensibilities of minorities.

Ambassador Arrion who is also accredited to ECOWAS said that this might require the reform of ECOWAS’ decision making structures and the role of the institutions, noting that the EU has earmarked 1 billion euros to the region over five years to be used to support programmes that contribute to regional integration working with various structures in the region.

Source: GNA

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