ECOWAS will need to undertake legal reforms to become an effective community – WAMI DG

ECOWAS will need to strengthen the legal underpinnings of its integration process by undertaking legal reforms at the national and regional levels in order to become an effective Community, the Chief Executive of the Accra-based West African Monetary Institute (WAMI), a specialized agency of ECOWAS with responsibility to midwife the creation of a single currency for five of its Member States has said.

Delivering a paper at the 2019 international conference of the Community Court of Justice in Accra, Dr Ngozi Egbuna characterized ‘an effective Community from the legal perspective,’ as one where there is free flow of goods, service, person, capital and property consistent with the level of economic integration; Community law is integrated into the laws of Member States and there exists institutions adequately designed, mandated and resourced to ensure the application of community law.

Such a community, she added, should also have well outlined procedures for monitoring and addressing breaches of community law; possess a carefully structured legal framework for addressing and managing multiple relationships created by economic integration as well as a significant body of community laws including judicial decisions to regulate the integration process.

She noted that while the ECOWAS Treaty invested the Court with responsibility for settling disputes between Member States and between Member States and Community institutions related to the interpretation of the Revised Treaty, there was no provision for the referral of law suits by Courts in Member States to the regional Court.

Dr Egbuna emphasized that this has ‘severely limited the area of influence of the Community Court of Justice and denied it the capacity and opportunity to establish the supremacy of ECOWAS Law and contribute to the development of the economic integration process in the region.’

The Director General said that the proposed legal reforms should focus on expounding the provisions of the Revised Treaty on the status of Community Laws in Member States, strengthen the ECOWAS Court to enable it effectively enforce Community laws and create a consciousness among Member States and Community Institutions of the primacy of regional and Community law.

Finally, she said that there should be ‘an aggressive drive for the harmonization of all national laws, beginning with the laws relating to business and finance,’ describing the key pillars of ECOWAS integration as trade and financial market integration as well as the harmonization and coordination of national policies.

Her paper was on the Legal aspects of Economic Integration and provided an overview of the legal aspects of economic integration focusing on policy frameworks of economic integration that ensure conformity with the law and regulations.

WAMI was created in 2001 to undertake the technical preparations for the establishment of a common Central Bank and the launching of a single currency for the five countries of Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.