*By Paul Ejime –
At the recently concluded 2023 International Conference of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice held in Banjul, the Gambian capital, the sobriquet “CR,” was frequently used by participants, particularly Judges, Ministers, and legal acolytes from within and outside the ECOWAS region. This was not a reference to World football famous Cristian Ronaldo, but Barrister Tony Anene-Maidoh, the pioneer and immediate-past Chief Registrar of the Abuja-based regional Court.
Soft-spoken, unassuming, but a stickler for details, Barr Anene-Maidoh boasts an impressive track record and more than four decades of experience of legal practice in the public and private sector, including 18 years at the helm of the Registry Department of the ECOWAS Community Court.
Having joined the Court in 2003 as its Registrar and a pioneer staff, he became Acting Chief Registrar in January 2004 and then substantive and first Chief Registrar of the Court in April the same year, a position he held until final retirement in September 2022.
His retirement date was actually October 2020, but he received service extension for two years. Not that the service of any staff was indispensable, however, the hierarchy was convinced that Barr Anene-Maidoh brought something unique to the table.
As testament to his dedication and hard work, Anene-Maidoh was elevated to a D2 Director position in April 2008, making him the first Officer in all ECOWAS institutions to attain that enviable height.
As Chief Registrar, he remains an institutional memory or brain box of the Court, assisting the institution, its Presidents, and Hon. Judges in their official functions.
Barr Anene-Maidoh worked very closely with six successive Court Presidents beginning with Hon. Justice Hansine Donli (Nigeria), Aminata Malle Sanogo (Mali), Awa Daboya Nana (Togo), Maria Silver Monteiro (Guinea-Bissau), Jerome Traore (Burkina Faso), and the incumbent, Edward Amoako Asante (Ghana).
Set up as an inter-state Court under provisions of the 1991 Protocol and the 1993 Revised Treaty to facilitate the integration process of the Community, the Court has Treaty supervisory and oversight functions with the primary mandate of interpreting and applying the Treaty and other Community Texts.
However, a 2005 Supplementary Protocol, which amended the initial Protocol on the Court, expanded its mandates to include the ECOWAS Community Court mandate, ECOWAS Public Service Administrative Tribunal, a Human Rights Court mandate, and an Arbitration Court mandate, with Human Rights jurisdiction as the centrepiece of its judicial activities.
Barr Anene-Maidoh’s responsibilities as the Chief Registrar were numerous and he is credited with many achievements, including conceptualising, and leading the implementation of many of the Court’s flagship programmes, some of which have been institutionalised in the annual Work Programmes of the Court.
Other achievements are the Judicial/Judges’ Retreats; External Court Sessions in member States, the New Legal Year ceremonies; International Conferences, which started as a biennial event but now held annually; Case Management Workshops; and Workshop on Headnotes and Summary of the Judgments of the Court.
Other key programmes started during Anene-Maidoh’s tenure as Chief Registrar are the Orientation training for new Judges of the Court and their Executive Assistants, establishment of the Court’s Archive Unit, which has proved a very useful part of its Judicial records system, and a Publication Division in charge of all the Court’s publications, such as the ECOWAS Court of Justice Law Reports, with him as Editor-in-Chief.
The former Chief Registrar also conceived and pioneered the publication of the Notice of Registration of new cases in a Special edition of the Official Journal of the Community in English and French and is credited with setting up the Registry Department of the Court with sustained training and mentoring of staff of the Department into a formidable and efficient workforce.
Barr Anene-Maidoh also introduced Case Management meetings and statutory reports, an Operations Manual, as well as an annual Registry Work Programme, and an innovative Docket Information system, as an indispensable tool for the Judges.
Under the Court’s 2018 Organogram approved by the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, the former Chief Registrar worked with staff of his department, to propose and successfully defended the creation of five Divisions in the Registry Department and creation of many essential professional staff positions in the department.
As Chief Registrar, Barr Anene-Maidoh represented the Community Court on the Inter-Institutional Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee and played pivotal role in the production of the first and subsequent editions, of the ECOWAS Court of Justice Strategic Plan and Action Plan between 2010 and 2020.
He also conceived the creation of a Strategic Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation position in the Office of the President of the Court under the 2018 Organogram.
Barr Anene-Maidoh equally played key roles in the establishment of the website to enhance the Community Court’s online visibility, and in the stepping up sensitisation and orientation programmes, as well as training workshops for judges, lawyers, and the academia in member States.
He was also a key player in the production of the draft rules of Arbitration of the Community Court in 2011 with a revised edition in 2018; the ECOWAS Court of Justice Practice Direction 2012, and the 2020 Practice Directions on Virtual Case Management and hearing, which enables litigants to file and argue their cases remotely.
Some of lawyer Anene-Maidoh’s strong qualities are his intellectual depth, workaholic nature, discipline, humane inter-personal relationships, team spirit and building of collegiate and professional contacts.
Even so, he insists that whatever he has achieved as Chief Registrar was down to the excellent cooperation and support of the Hon. Presidents and Judges of the Court, and his colleagues, across the departments and divisions.
One of his colleagues, Eric Akuete, Head of Conference and Protocol, another pioneer staff of the Court, described Anene-Maidoh as a “very efficient and rigorous professional.”
“He has put in great efforts and done a lot to raise the status and professional efficiency of the Court,” added Akuete, who joined the Court in 2004.
Continuing, he said, one of the key achievements of the Court “is the implementation of the 2005 Protocol,” which allows citizens direct access to the Community Court on human rights issues. Before then, access was restricted to member States only.
Like Akuete, Barr Anene-Maidoh believes the lack of implementation of the Community Court’s decisions by member States remains a major challenge.
In the paper he presented to the Banjul Conference on Zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government, the former Chief Registrar, called for “re-design” of the implementation mechanism to involve political authorities such as the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and the Authority of Heads of State and Government to assist in monitoring and supervision of the implementation of the Court’s judgments.
Official records show that about 106 judgments of the Court against member States have not been enforced with another 11 outstanding against the ECOWAS Commission and Community institutions. Describing the current enforcement mechanism as “rudimentary” and inconsistent with international best practice, Barr Anene-Maidoh, said the suggested mechanism would address perceived shortcomings of Article 24 of the 2005 Supplementary Act relating to the enforcement of the Court’s decisions.
He also suggested that the 2012 Supplementary Act on Sanctions should be amended to include a provision empowering the Court not only to set time limits for compliance with its judgments, but also prescribe details of the judicial sanctions for non-compliance in the form of day to day or lump sum monetary penalty, and to empower successful parties to trigger the sanctions mechanism. His other recommended measures for improving the level of the Community Court’s enforcement mechanism, include the domestication of the Revised Treaty, Protocols, and other regional texts by member States and incorporation of these into national laws of member States in accordance with Article 5(2) of the Revised Treaty.
Member States, he said, should also enact the implementing legislation for the enforcement of the Court’s decisions to enable national courts recognize and enforce such judgments in addition to assigning the ECOWAS Commission a role in the enforcement mechanism while a Committee of Ministers should be constituted to monitor and supervise the enforcements.
“The Court should be empowered to send its Annual Report to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and/or the Authority of Heads of State and Government on the status of compliance with its judgments by member States, like in the African Human Rights system and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights enforcement mechanism,” the former Chief Registrar suggested.
Before joining ECOWAS in 2003, Barr Anene-Maidoh, who holds an LLM, and is working on his Ph.D. programme, has attended multiple specialised professional trainings in Nigeria, United States, and UK. He has also written extensively on law and jurisprudence, including the Human Rights Mandate of the Community Court of Justice, the Practice and Procedure of the Court and its Judgement Enforcement Mechanism.
Between 1983 and 1992, he held various high-profile legal positions, including as State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Kaduna State; (northern Nigeria), Judge Advocate, Military Court Martial, Nigeria Army School of Infantry, Jaji, Kaduna, member, and later Chairman, Kaduna State Local Government Election Tribunal, Chairman, Kaduna State Rent Tribunal in 1986 and Company Secretary in Lagos the late 1990s.
Barr Anene-Maidoh is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, African Bar Association, International Bar Association, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in July 1981.
*Paul Ejime is a Global Affairs Analyst and Consultant on Strategic Communications, Media Development, Governance Issues & Elections