This, according to President Akufo-Addo, is of utmost importance especially following the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Speaking at the Annual International Conference of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, the President said the principal reason for the creation of ECOWAS was to enhance inter-regional commerce and co-operation.
He explained that there is a clear recognition that the countries of West Africa would be a more effective economic bloc and have a stronger political voice if they came together.
“Subsequently, provision was also made for solving inter-state conflicts, as well as grave intra-state ones too. Today, however, while the EU is central to the lives of Europeans, ECOWAS is, still, somewhat peripheral to the lives of most West Africans. And it is not for the lack of plans or even rules and regulations. It is simply that the political will to make integration real has been less evident than in Europe,” he said.
Describing the problem as a lack of leadership, President Akufo-Addo stated that West Africa cannot make the bold transforming changes it needs to make without visionary political leadership.
“We need leadership that is focused on the region, and not on individual countries. The European Union took off because the political leadership of France and Germany decided to make it work. Once the political will is evident, we can then work together to make ECOWAS a true regional community,” the President said.
With ECOWAS having realised some of its aims and objectives, and consolidating its institutional framework, he stated that the process of integration can be expedited if ECOWAS Member States mainstreamed the rule of law, democracy and good governance in the development of the project.
That is why, according to President Akufo-Addo, the ECOWAS Court of Justice must be empowered to play this role as the principal legal organ of the Community.
“Since the Court has exclusive responsibility for the interpretation and application of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, Courts of Member States must be encouraged to refer questions of interpretation of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and other community texts, in cases before them involving questions of the Treaty and community texts, to the ECOWAS Court of Justice, in order to ensure uniformity in the interpretation of the Treaty and the texts,” he added.
The President stressed the importance of Member States complying with judgements of the Court, explaining that “the ECOWAS Revised Treaty provides that judgements of the Court are binding on all Member States, institutions, corporate bodies and individuals.”
With only five (5) ECOWAS Member States currently enforcing judgements of the Court of Justice, President Akufo-Addo told the gathering that “I am happy to inform you that I have designated the Office of the Attorney General as the competent national authority for the enforcement, in Ghana, of the judgments of the ECOWAS Court of Justice. All other Member States must quickly do the same”.
He continued, “What makes ECOWAS better will make each of our individual countries better and more prosperous. It is time for those who believe in regional integration to give enthusiastic support to Community decisions and inspire confidence and integrity in the structural organs of ECOWAS, such as the ECOWAS Court of Justice. Our people deserve no less, and the dream of prosperity will be within our grasp.”
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