Applications filed before the ECOWAS Court should not exceed 15 pages, except in special circumstances where the President of the Court, by an application from the Applicant, may approve the filing of an initiating application exceeding the 15 pages.
A lawyer in the Registry of the Court, Mr. Ekpenyong Duke, also informed participants at a sensitization campaign of the Court in Nigeria’s Kwara State, that where a party desires an accelerated hearing, such request must be made through a separate application lodged at the same time with the application initiating the proceeding.
In a presentation to the lawyers forum on how to file cases before the ECOWAS Court, Mr Duke challenged the lawyers to familiarize themselves with the various basic texts of the Court prescribing the practice and procedure before the Court, which can be gleaned from the Rules of Procedure, the Protocol on the Court and Instruction to the Chief Registrar and Practice Direction of the Court.
He said lawyers and parties should be familiar with the competences/mandates and jurisdiction of the Court and those that can access the Court as specified under Article 76 of the Revised Treaty, and Articles 9 and 10 of its Protocols.
He said that initiating applications should comply with the provisions of Article 33 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court and highlight the names and designations of the parties, the subject matter of the dispute, summary of facts, summary of pleas in law and reliefs sought by the Applicant, nature of supporting evidence, address for service and name of person authorized to receive the service.
He said after the receipt and lodgment of the compliant application, the Court serves the opposing party (the Respondent) with the initiating application and notifies the Respondent, through Notice of Registration of new application, that the Court expects response to be lodged within a month as stated in the rules of procedure of the Court.
That Applications must be signed and sent to the registry of the Court by email to email@example.com.
He also said that Article 9 (2) of the Court’s Practice Direction states that the application must not exceed 15 pages except in exceptional circumstances and if it required expedited hearing, it must be stated in a separate application and sent along with the initiating application.
Mr. Duke explained that the Respondent against whom the application is filed is expected to file his defense within a month in accordance with Article 35 of the Rules of Procedure and Article 5 (1) of the Practice Direction which requires him to include his name and address, arguments and laws relied on, nature of his evidence and order(s) sought from the Court.
In addition, he said the applications may be supplemented with a reply from the Applicant and rejoinder by the Respondent, adding that time limits for filing applications may be extended by the Court if a party requiring it files an application seeking that consideration.
He also told the lawyers that the Court adopted its 2020 Practice Direction on Electronic Case Management and Virtual Court Session to allow it commence electronic filing and virtual court sessions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted the normal operations of the Court’s activities from March to May, 2020.
He said Article 3 of the newly adopted document allowed parties and lawyers to file signed legal documents saved in PDF format, electronically and that the Court publishes notice of registration of applications in the official journal of ECOWAS as a means of informing member states, the general public and interested parties who may wish to intervene in a matter before the Court.
Other presentations were also made by Executive Assistants to judges of the Court. Mr Nketiah Apraku and Cassandra Labor whose presentations were on the mandate and jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court, and the Practice and Procedure before the ECOWAS Court respectively.