The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ) on Monday commenced its 13th Administration and Budget Retreat, as it sets to resume all physical activities and sittings post COVID-19 pandemic.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the five-day retreat, holding at Goshen City, Nasarawa state, will kick-start physical activities which had been in a virtual mode due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
President of the Court, Justice Edward Asante described the retreat as marking an important step in the restoration of the other important activities of the Court that were disrupted by the pandemic.
“It has become possible to convene this number of participants for such an important event in the calendar of the Court, though with the necessary safety measures.
“The possibility of this gathering is evidence that the risk of the pandemic is receding. We, therefore, look forward with optimism to the restoration of normalcy without ignoring the lessons of the pandemic.
“Consequently, we should also not forget the possibilities it spawned with the deployment of virtual technology, which has helped us address one of the challenges confronting the Court; improving access to citizens at a more affordable cost.
“The fact that staff are also resuming today in their offices after the staggered and virtual working arrangements for more than twelve months, dictated by the pandemic, is further evidence of the gradual return of normalcy.
“In preparation for this resumption, management has approved re-entry protocols, which should be scrupulously observed for our continued safety without compromising on efficiency”, Asante said.
Asante noted that beyond these visible disruptions to the operations of the Court, there was also the financial impact as it affected the performance of the budget in 2020.
He explained that the impact on Community levy receipts was felt hard by the Court as it was its predominant source of funding.
“Although we have so far only received 40 per cent of our expected inflow for the first six months of the year, we remain hopeful of improvements during the remaining half of the year.
“However, the liquidity squeeze has taught us the virtue of the prudent management of our resources without sacrificing staff welfare and the provision of appropriate working tools for effectiveness”, Asante added.
Justice Asante also said that the retreat was coming against the backdrop of the impending relocation of the Court to its new and more spacious building, which should provide a more congenial working environment with the anticipated improvements in staff output and conduct.
Asanted noted that in order to accommodate the concomitant costs of the movement, the Court had made some budgetary provisions for 2022 that should help in coping with the costs.
“Historically, the administration and finance retreat provide us an opportunity to review our activities, interrogate our budget proposals for the forthcoming year and build cohesion around our proposals and manage expectations.
“The 13th retreat won’t be different. We have additionally created a window for the Pensions desk officer at the Commission to acquaint us with the status of our pensions regime for the benefit of staff.
“Those who will soon be leaving the service of the Court will particularly find it beneficial,” Asante said.
Dr. William Towah, Director, Administration and Finance of the Court, said the Retreat was also aimed at discussing the general administration of the Court and the update on the status of the 2021 budget implementation.
This, he added, would be done with reference to programme delivery and related administrative costs, and the presentation of the 2022 Draft Budget to allow all participants to make inputs and finally endorse the budget.
“For the record, the draft 2022 Budget was prepared without the issuance of the Budget Circular issued by the President of the ECOWAS Commission.
“Usually, the Budget Circular is issued at the end of July or in early August; this is to say that we expect the Budget Circular to be issued soon.
“In this connection, while we may endorse the draft budget at this meeting, there may be need to revise the draft budget to harmonize with the content of the Budget Circular as at when issued”, Towah said. (Naija247news)