Politics

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The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola has called on West African leaders to use justice and equity to build a prosperous region for the coming generations.

He said this has become necessary given the economic, political and leadership challenges engulfing the region at the moment.

Justice Ariwoola made the call in Abuja on Tuesday while declaring open the Statutory ECOWAS Judicial Council meeting, holding at the National Judicial Council in Abuja.

The CJN, who is presiding over the meeting being attended by Chief Justices of West African Countries, challenged West African leaders to reaffirm their commitment to the ideals of justice, equity and solidarity and work together to build a just region for the people.

Justice Ariwoola said the ECOWAS Judicial Council, EJC, though not widely known like other bodies, has been playing crucial roles in maintaining the rules of law and justice within the region.

Besides, the CJN explained that the Council which comprised eminent jurists from West African States has also been serving as the guardian of the rule of law and the protector of human rights within the region.

“In addition, the ECOWAS Judicial Council plays a crucial role in the resolution of disputes among member states, ensuring that conflicts are resolved peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law.

The CJN added that the Western Region is characterized by diverse legal systems and traditions and that the harmonization of laws and legal practices is essential for promoting regional integration and cooperation.

While the ECOWAS Judicial Council has made significant strides in promoting justice and the rule of law in West Africa, the CJN said the Council is faced with the challenges of inadequate funding, capacity constraints and the need to bolster cooperation among others.

“However, these challenges also present opportunities for innovation and collaboration, as we work together to overcome shared obstacles and build a brighter future for our region”, he said and added that the Council stands as a beacon of hope and progress in the quest for justice and regional integration within West Africa.

He assured that the Council, under his leadership, will continue to pay attention to addressing situations that threaten the judiciary system in West Africa and the organisation of the Community Court of Justice.

“By doing so, the Court contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. The various national judicial systems in member States are also expected to play these critical roles of nation and regional building”, he said.

He, therefore, called for support for the Council to be able to play the role of ensuring an integrated West Africa.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, charged the ECOWAS Court of Justice to pay attention to the peculiarities of member States and refrain from issuing orders and judgments that are practically incapable of enforcement.

The AGF said there is a dire need to promote and deepen alternative dispute resolution measures within the West African region.

The ECOWAS Court, he said, must adopt strategies that would strengthen its jurisdiction whilst appreciating the jurisdictional boundaries of the Court and limiting unnecessary conflict with domestic laws of member states.

Fagbemi said the extensive jurisdiction conferred on the ECOWAS Court calls for the recruitment of jurists with extensive experience, expertise, high moral character and discipline.

He stressed the need for the Community Court of Justice to undergo necessary reforms to bring it in tandem with the current emergencies and manage the challenges associated with justice delivery in the region.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, in his speech, said the Judiciary remains crucial in the efforts to curb instability and insecurity in the West African Sub-region.

He said, “In this era, where instability and insecurity are overwhelming our community, the role of the justice sector is crucial in conflict prevention, through the promotion and defence of the rule of law and human rights.

Over the years, he said, the Community Court has been a reference point for ECOWAS Institutions, as well as individuals, entities, and governments in search of advice, arbitration, and adjudication, adding that the regular session of the Statutory Meeting of the ECOWAS Judicial Council is important to address issues affecting the effective operation of the Community Court and to ensure excellence, high standards of conduct.

“The enforcement of the judgments of the Community Court has remained a major issue in the effective delivery of the mandate and responsibility of the judicial institution to the community citizens”, he said.