With specific reference to the ECOWAS Commission, Nwoke said that the blatant disregard for community court decisions, as well as lackluster attitude towards other obligations, was due to the fact that ECOWAS was doing little to force membership.
Nwoke told the Nigerian News Agency that there were certain sanctions that could be imposed on member states that made mistakes, and that such sanctions must be triggered by the Commission.
Don spoke immediately after the International Conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the ECOWAS Court.
The conference sought to evaluate the court’s performance and seek solutions to non-compliance with its rulings, among other things.
He said that although the Authority of Heads of State was the highest decision-making body, issues of adherence to court rulings and other obligations could only be decided when activated.
Nwoke, former judge of the Community Court, said: “It is the responsibility of the Heads of State as the highest authority of the community to make those decisions, but of course, they are the political arms of the institution of the community, the Commission.
“In this case, the commission is the political arm and it is the Commission that triggers the imposition of political sanctions on community member states that make mistakes.
“Without a trigger, there cannot be a process that facilitates the imposition of sanctions, because the Heads of State themselves are not usually part of the daily life of the community.
“So he is the president of the Commission, which is like the Secretary General of the United Nations who supervises and reports to the Security Council,” he said.
He said the ECOWAS protocol also provides for judicial sanctions, which he said come from the court, but cannot be implemented.
He said that the power to implement judicial sanctions also rests with the ECOWAS Commission at the helm.
According to Nwoke, it is the commission that drafts the authority for the imposition of such sanctions which, according to him, could range from suspension, denial of certain rights, and sometimes total withdrawal of membership for a certain period of time. .
“So the conclusion is that most of it ends up on the table of the Authority of Heads of State at the request of the Commission.
“So even if a State has violated, or is in violation or is in continuous violation of its obligations, nothing can be done unless the sanctions process is triggered by the arm of the community, which is the Commission,” said.
Recalling actions of previous leadership of the commission, Nwoke said that the actions of the commission depended on the person occupying the leadership position.
“When we had an executive who was at the head, it was his strength, a strong force to be reckoned with, and he sits one on one with the Heads of State and speaks to their eyes.
“Although the community was not as organized then as it is today, disobedience was then the exception rather than the rule.
“That was the moment when those decisions, the intervention in Liberia, the interventions in Sierra Leone were concretely carried out.
“If it was this time, it will be destroyed politically, nothing will be done and the state will begin to politicize it.
“Therefore, we need a strong political force as head of the commission,” he said.
While learning of the fact that the President of the Commission is appointed by the Heads of State, Nwoke noted that the office enjoyed administrative independence.
Therefore, he stressed that the president of the Commission had the power to promote the community.
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