Court throws out suit by dismissed staff of an Accra-based international organisation for lack of jurisdiction

The Court of Justice has dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, a suit filed by a former Director of the Accra-based West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land (WASCAL), alleging the ‘wrongful’ termination of her appointment without fair hearing.

Ruling on Wednesday, 11th December 2019 in a suit brought by Professor (Mrs.) Janet Adelegan, a former Director of Capacity Building at WASCAL, the Court agreed with the Respondents, WASCAL and its Governing Board, that it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter as the Respondents did not fall into the categories of parties that can be brought before the Court.

In coming to the decision, the Court said in its judgment read by Justice Dupe Atoki, that it was guided by Article 9 (4) of the Supplementary Protocol Amending the Protocol on the Community Court of Justice which provides that ‘the Court has jurisdiction to determine cases of violation of human rights that occur in any Member State.’

The Court also cited the case of Peter David versus Ambassador Ralph Uwechue where it held that ‘within the ECOWAS Community, apart from Member States, other entities that can be brought to this Court for alleged violation of human rights are institutions of the Community.”

The Court rejected the Applicant’s argument that WASCAL is an institution of ECOWAS by virtue of its creation by 11 of the 15 Member States of the Community and the Articles of its Constitution which conferred on the Court a dispute resolution role in WASCAL.

‘ ..The Court is of the opinion that by virtue of Article 6 (2),’ relating to Community institutions and the procedure for their establishment, ‘the establishment of any other institution must be by way of a Protocol which shall establish their functions and the limit of their powers.

‘In this instant, the first Respondent was established by a Cooperation Agreement between 11 States, 10 of which are signatory to the ECOWAS Treaty and the Federal Republic of Germany.

‘From all indications, the Respondent is an autonomous international organization with majority of its members coincidentally being ECOWAS Member States,’ the Court added

In rejecting the Applicant’s claim that the Respondent is a Community institution by virtue of the Cooperation Agreement and WASCAL constitution designating the Court for dispute resolution, the Court said the Applicant ‘cannot be regarded as a contracting party’ within the contemplation of the two documents ‘to access the ECOWAS Court for the resolution of dispute with the Respondent.’

The Court also ordered the Applicant, a Nigerian resident in Accra, to bear the costs of the proceedings.

Also on the panel were Justices Edward Amoako Asante (presiding) and Keikura Bangura.