The ECCJ also has broad access and standing rules allowing individuals and NGOs to by-pass national courts and file directly to the regional court. This followed the Court’s ruling in Olajide Afolabi v. Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The expanded mandate of the court – allowing for individual access; the open-ended legal norms application by the court;3and the absence of the requirement for exhaustion of local remedies as a prerequisite for admissibility of a complaint4 - collectively give the ECOWAS Court the broadest authority of all the human rights tribunals in the world. The authority, coupled with the court’s mandate to hold at least two (2) mobile sessions in a year;5 and the recent court directive requiring member states to indicate the competent national authority with the mandate to enforce the decisions of the court against the specific member state – strategically place the court to play a critical role in advancing accountability for victims of gross human rights violations, and in the fight against impunity.
The Proposed Restructuring of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice
In a bid to restructure the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States, with a view of ensuring efficiency; several recommendations have been made, including inter alia the need for the reduction of the number of statutory appointed positions across all institutions of the Commission.
One of the institutions affected by this proposed reduction is the ECCJ. It is proposed that the total number of judges at the Court be reduced from the current seven (7), to five (5) judges.