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ECOWAS Court Calls For Establishment Of Legal Aid Fund

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The President of the Community Court of Justice, Justice Edward Asante has urged the ECOWAS authorities to approve the necessary legislation for the establishment of the legal aid fund proposed by the Court.

The President disclosed this on Monday at the opening of the 8th Judicial Retreat of the Court at Goshen city in Abuja.

He said that the fund will benefit indigent community citizens who may want to approach the Court in order to strengthen the delivery of justice.

“The Court has long recognised the need for a legal aid fund and made provision for the establishment of this laudable fund in its 2015 to 2020 strategic plan.

“The retreat comes against the background of new challenges such as the ‘regrettable’ reduction in the composition of the judges from seven to five and the ‘unfortunate’ change in the tenure of the judges from five years renewable as provided in the 1991 initial Protocol of the Court.

“To four years non-renewable, a development that is “neither in the interest of the Court nor the citizens. No other regional court has this type of composition and tenure of judges.

“The Court will therefore continue to appeal to the relevant authorities to redress this anomaly in recognition of the peculiarity of the Court as a judicial institution,” the President noted.

Asante, spoke on the need to establish an appellate chamber of the Court in line with the 2006 agreement by the region’s Council of Ministers in order to avail litigants of their fundamental right of appeal.

“ A right of appeal is indeed a fundamental right and it must be noted that the 2018 new organogram of the Court reflects an intention for the creation of an appellate division of the Court.

“And will be one of the preoccupations of the two day retreat. Moreover, the retreat will discuss the controversial issue of amicus curiae which has led to some conflicting decisions.

“Because of the divergence in legal traditions in the region, so as to bring the necessary cohesion in the Court.”

He said that the retreat will seek to articulate ‘clear guidelines on reparation which has occasioned wide disparities in the quantum of awards in similar situations depending on particular panels of the Court.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the retreat was the second retreat held since the assumption of duty of the new judges to enable the Court examine administrative and legal issues.

The retreat is being attended by the five judges of the Court, their Executive Assistants and senior staff of the Court.

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