Akufo-Addo to ECOWAS member states: Comply with judgments of CCJ

The ECOWAS Court of Justice is an organ of the Economic Community of West African States, a regional integration community of 15-member states in Western Africa

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and chairman of the Authority of Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has appealed to member states to do all within their power to comply, respect and obey the judgments of the Community Court of Justice (CCJ).

Addressing attendees of the opening ceremony of the maiden external session of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice (CCJ), today, 21 March 2022, held at the Law Court Complex, President Akufo-Addo stated that national sovereignties should not be an impediment to the realization of the objectives of the community of West African states.

“Inspite of the best efforts of the ECOWAS court of justice to deliver on its mandate, it is constrained by the poor rate of enforcement of its judgements which presently stands at some thirteen percent (13%)”.

“Unless member states comply with the judgements of the court, it will be difficult to build public confidence in the court” President Akufo-Addo said.

“I appeal to all member states to ensure that they comply with their treaty obligation by observing and obeying the judgements of the court”.

“All member states that are yet to appoint their competent national authorities for the enforcement of the judgements of the court are respectfully urged to do so without further delay” the President added.

Human Rights Jurisdiction

Commenting on the expanded jurisdiction of the CCJ with regard to dealing with human right violations, President Akufo-Addo, observed that the jurisdiction “does not require parties to exhaust all local remedies prior to invoking the jurisdiction of the Court” which has in certain cases, “resulted in judgements that member states find difficult to enforce or are inconsistent with the concerned member states municipal law”.

“Some judgements have even led to efforts to attach state assets in satisfaction of the judgement. However, this is not a practice in other international courts” President Akufo-Addo stated.

“I will in these circumstances, make a suggestion for the respectful consideration of the court which in my view will obviate any potential conflict between the curt and national governments and allow for the systematic development of the court’s authority”

“…And that is, without recourse to a formal revision of the guiding protocol, to impose the rule of judicial self-restraint that will insist that an applicant for the exercise of the court’s expanded jurisdiction, satisfy the requirement of the exhaustion of domestic remedies prior to the successful invocation of the court’s jurisdiction” Akufo-Addo further stated.

“Such a rule, even if judge made, like practice directions in common law judicial jurisdictions, will align the practice and procedure of the court in the exercise of its expanded jurisdiction with the equivalent jurisdiction of similar courts in the international sphere” he added.

Strengthening the CCJ

The Chief Justice, Justice Anin Yeboah, in his opening statement, observed that, the two weeks sitting of the ECOWAS Community Court will foster closer relations between Ghana’s Judiciary and the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ).

He indicated in his statement that there is the need to review the current 4-year term limit on the tenure of justices who preside at the Community Court.

He also noted that the decision in 2017, to review the number of judges of the CCJ from seven (7) to five (5), ought to be reversed.

“In view of the expansive mandates of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, it is necessary to review the decision that was taken in 2017, that reduced the number of Judges of the Court from seven to five”.

“The Court, I believe, requires an adequate number of judges to discharge its functions every effectively” the Chief Justice said.

Again, it would be necessary to review the four years’ non-renewable tenure of the members of the Court, to enable the Community to derive maximum benefits from their wealth of experience” Chief Justice Anin Yeboah added.

Freedom of Expression Prize

The Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame, in his statement congratulated the CCJ for its ruling in the case of Amnesty International & Others versus the Togolese Republic, which earned the Court, the Global Freedom of Expression Prize 2022, given by the Columbia University, USA.

The Court in their ruling held that the Togolese government violated the applicants’ right to freedom of expression by shutting down the internet during a September 2017 protests.

In August 2017, thousands of protesters called for the return of the 1992 constitution, which guaranteed multi-party elections and a two-term limit for the head of State.

To disrupt protests, the Respondent State of Togo cut off access to the internet from September 5-10 and again from September 19-21.

The Court found that access to the internet is a “derivative right” as it “enhances the exercise of freedom of expression.”

As such, internet access is “a right that requires protection of the law” and any interference with it “must be provided for by the law specifying the grounds for such interference.”

As there was no national law upon which the right to internet access could be derogated from, the Court concluded that the internet was not shut down in accordance with the law and the Togolese government had violated Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Court subsequently ordered Togo to take measures to guarantee the “non-occurrence” of a future similar situation, implement laws to meet their obligations with the right to freedom of expression, and compensate each applicant to the sum of about US$3,500 USD.

Jurisdiction of the Court

Among other, the Court examines cases of failure by Member States to honour their obligations under the Community law. The Court also has competence to adjudicate on any dispute relating to the interpretation and application of acts of the Community.

As part of its mandate, the Court adjudicates in disputes between Institutions of the Community and their officials, handles cases dealing with liability for or against the Community, determine cases of violation of human rights that occur in any Member State as well as adjudge and make declarations on the legality of Regulations, Directives, Decisions, and other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by ECOWAS.

The CCJ under Article 10 of the 1991 Protocol of the Court may issue on advisory capacity, a legal opinion on matters that require interpretation of the provisions of the Treaty. This allows the court to play an important role in the prevention of conflicts or disputes and to interpret the provisions of the Treaty.


The ECOWAS Court of Justice is an organ of the Economic Community of West African States, a regional integration community of 15 member states in Western Africa.

It was created pursuant to the provisions of Articles 6 and 15 of the Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States.

The Mandate of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ) is to ensure the observance of law and of the principles of equity and in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Revised Treat and all other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by ECOWAS.

Justices of the Court

The current five-member adjudicating body of the court comprises of Justice Edward Amoako Asante, a Court of Appeal judge in Ghana, who is the President of the Court. Justice Gberi-bè Ouattara from Côte d’Ivoire, is the Vice-President of the Court.

The three other members of the Court are Justice Dupe Atoki, from Nigeria, Justice Keikura Bangura, from Sierra Leone and Justice Januária Tavares Silva Moreira Costa, from Cape Verde.

The CCJ sitting is in Ghana from the 21 March to the 1 April 2022, forms part of the Court’s agenda to bring its services closer to citizens in member countries, aside from its sitting at the Court’s Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.

The external sitting of the court is also aimed at creating public awareness of the Court and its services, especially, the cases it hears, and how ordinary citizens can access it.

Wilberforce Asare

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