ECOWAS Court launches its virtual court sessions with dismissal of case brought by former Community staff

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice on Monday, 22nd June 2020 dismissed a case brought by a former Director of a Freetown-based ECOWAS institution in which she wanted an order of the Court to compel the institution to comply with an order of a High Court of Sierra Leone awarding her damages related to her dismissal.

Delivering judgment in the case brought by Dr Rose Mbatomon Ako against the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) and four other defendants, Justice Edward Amoako Asante said the Court is not an appellate court over the decision of national courts and cannot compel obedience of the decisions of such courts.

Justice Asante said the case was ‘caught up by the doctrine of res judicata and not amenable to re-litigate,’ while the other relief sought by the plaintiff regarding the recovery of her personal belongings was settled by the Court in its previous judgment ECW/CCJ/JUD/01/13 after which she was compensated.

In suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/33/17/SUPP filed on 8th of September 2017 through her counsel Mr Ahmed Tijani Yusuf, the plaintiff alleged that she was unlawfully evicted by the first and second defendants while her personal belongings were seized from her official residence thereby rendering her an internally displaced person, following the alleged wrongful termination of her appointment which constituted a violation of her fundamental human rights.

Dr Ako averred that though the ECOWAS Court had awarded her compensation in judgment ECW/CCJ/JUD/01/13 which was executed, it was silent concerning the recovery of her personal belongings.

The plaintiff had urged the Court to order the first and second defendants, the Director General of WAMA and the Chairman of its Committee of Governors to execute the judgment of a national court in her favour. She also wanted the Court to compel the defendants, which also included Attorney General of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the Republic of Sierra Leone to pay special damages estimated at $379,552 and punitive damages in the sum of $150,000, and a mandatory injunction compelling the defendants to release the properties of her properties.

On their part, Mr. Osman Ibrahim Kanu, counsel to the first, second, fourth and fifth defendants argued that the plaintiff’s application was an abuse of court process as the issues raised by the plaintiff were not new facts, but rather facts that had been decided in an earlier judgment of the ECOWAS Court. He added that the ECOWAS Court is not an appellate court.

Also on the panel with Justice Asante, who presided, were Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara and Januaria T.S. Moreira Costa.

The judgment, the first to be delivered virtually, marked the resumption of the Court’s judicial function which was suspended on 20th March 2020 because of the outbreak of Covic-19 and following the a health advisory issued by the West African Health Organisation based in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.

Fourteen other judgments are scheduled to be delivered during the next two months through this virtual platform.