ECOWAS Court Orders Stay of Proceedings Pending Arbitration in Alleged Breach of Contract Case Involving ECOWAS Commission

Hearing was on Monday, 20th January 2020 suspended by the ECOWAS Court of Justice to allow the parties exhaust the arbitration option in the contract at the centre of the suit and notify the Court of the outcome.

Delivering a ruling in the suit brought by a former Consultant to the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Mariane Ngoulla, against the Commission, Honorable Justice Edward Amoako Asante, said the Court ordered the stay of proceedings to enable the parties seek arbitration in compliance with settlement of dispute clause in the contract.

“This Court holds that further proceedings in this matter is hereby stayed pending the hearing and determination of the dispute by an Arbitral Tribunal as voluntarily agreed between the parties,” he said.

The plaintiff, Dr. Ngoulla, had alleged in the initiating application filed before the Court on the 28th of February 2018 that she was denied the payment of various sums including arrears of salaries, housing, transportation, leave allowance and honorarium, in breach of an agreement entered into with the defendant in July 2006.

The plaintiff averred that she was appointed a Consultant for ECOWAS for a three year renewable contract to develop the regional programme on health in West Africa and to provide technical support to other health initiatives and commitments of the ECOWAS Commission. 

She claimed that despite the irregularities in the review of her fees annually by agents of the defendant as contained in the contract, she diligently performed her contractual obligations for the ten years (2006 – 2016).

Moreover, she claimed to have received part of the payment for the year 2014 – 2015 and on 22nd of July 2016 received a memorandum from the defendant terminating her contract effective 11th of July 2015 without reference to the arrears owed her.

Consequently, the plaintiff through her counsel approached the ECOWAS Court seeking reliefs in the amount of 3, 739,383 USD (Three Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty-Nine Thousand, Three Hundred and Eighty-Three United States Dollars) being arrears owed the plaintiff among other compensations.

In a counter argument, the defendant challenged the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the matter without the exhaustion of the provisions of the dispute clause contained in the consultancy agreement between both parties.

On the bench with Justice Asante were Justices Ouattara Gberi-Be and Keikura Bangura.