The ECOWAS Court has dismissed a case filed by a former employee of the ECOWAS Commission on the ground that she filed her case beyond the time limit.
Mrs. Dorothy Etim filed suit ECW/CCJ/APP/44/21, alleging that the ECOWAS Commission and its President wrongfully dismissed her on 8 September 2015.
She stated that the incident was based on an allegation that she produced forged documents to access ECOWAS education grant for the benefit of her four children.
She told the Court that she was not invited by the Respondents to respond or react to the allegations of “fraud” and “forgery”. She added that she wrote several letters on the matter but did not receive any response.
Mrs. Etim asked the Court to declare her dismissal wrongful. She also prayed the Court to order the Respondents to pay her accrued salaries and entitlements and the sum of N300 million naira as exemplary damages.
In its response, the ECOWAS Commission asked the Court to dismiss the case as Article 9(3) of the 2005 Supplementary Protocol provides that action by or against a Community Institution or any Member of the Community are statute-barred after three years from the date when the right of action arose.
The Commission also contended that Mrs. Etim did not follow internal processes, specifically, she did not appeal to the Head of the Institution during the mandatory time, and did not appeal to the Council of Minister. The Respondent, therefore, asked the Court to dismiss all her claims.
In the judgment the Court noted that under Article 9(3) of the Protocol of the Court (as amended), claims by or against a Community Institution or its staff are statute-barred after three years. Consequently, the Court held that since the incident occurred in 2015 and the claim filed in 2021, the claim was submitted well beyond the statutory time limit and therefore inadmissible.
The judgment, delivered by Justice Sengu Mohamed Koroma, also dismissed the Applicant’s claims of human rights violations against the ECOWAS Commission, emphasising that only Member States, not Community institutions, are recognised as parties in such matters. Furthermore, the Court dismissed the case against the President of the Commission stating that “it would be duplicitous to sue both the President and the Commission.
The ECOWAS Court is the Community Institution empowered to entertain administrative conflicts between Community institutions and their employees.
Also on the panel were Justices Dupe Atoki and Ricardo Cláudio Monteiro Gonçalves.