By Yerima Kini Nsom

President Paul Biya has instructed the competent Government departments to create Common Law departments at the Supreme Court and the School of Administration and Magistracy, ENAM.

The Minister of State in charge of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Laurent Esso, announced the measures at a press conference in Yaounde on March 30. The creation of the Common law department in the two institutions is one of the demands striking Common Law lawyers made.

“The President of the Republic has instructed me to draw up and submit to him a draft bill to amend the organisation and functioning of the Supreme Court for the inclusion of a Common Law section,” the Justice Minister told reporters. He further explained that the purpose of this English Language section of the court is to hear in English in compliance with the Common Law, cases from Courts of Appeal of the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

He also revealed that the Minister of Public Service and Administrative Reforms has been instructed to draft an amendment of the current organic instruments of ENAM to include the creation of a Common Law Department.

To the Minister, Government will recruit a bigger number of Anglophone teachers at the Magistracy and Registry Division of ENAM. This measure, he went on, will complement the inadequacy and the unavailability of teachers of English expression. Said he: “the Minister of Public Service and Administrative Reforms and the Director General of ENAM were instructed, accordingly, to institute, with effect from the next entrance examination for the recruitment of pupil judicial and legal officers, an already standardised and specific Common Law paper for Anglophone candidates.”

The Minister said the Head of State prescribed a special recruitment of English-speaking pupil judicial and legal officers and Court Registrars over a period of four years. He says, while waiting for the implementation of these measures, the Head of State authorised the special recruitment of specialised interpreters to provide services to courts as stipulated by the Law.

Laurent Esso said the President of the Republic has ordered a census of judicial and legal officers of English expression with a view to increasing the number of English-speaking judicial and legal officers at the Supreme Court. Such a measure, he went on, is aimed at instituting panels that can entertain appeals in the English Language against judgments rendered in English. He said some Civil Law magistrates in Common Law jurisdiction, have already been redeployed. He said the President will continue to redeploy magistrates on the basis of their ability in use of the working language.

“With respect to the practice of the profession of Notary Public in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, it should be noted that both the law to organise practice at the Bar and the decree to organise the profession of Notary Public lay down principles of non-accumulation of both duties and state that as a transitional measure pending appointment of Notaries Public in both Regions, advocates shall perform the duty of Notary Public,” the Minister explained

According to the Minister, the Head of State also prescribed the setting-up of a Faculty of Law and Political Science at the University of Buea. The Minister of Higher Education has been instructed to prepare relevant instruments for the setting-up of Department of English Law in the University of Douala, Maroua, Ngaoundere and Dschang. These departments will be similar to that at the University of Yaounde II, Soa. Such instruments will programme the teaching of Public Law in the University of Buea and Bamenda, taking into consideration the fact that Common Law does not distinguish between Private Law and Common Law.

“The Minister of Higher Education was instructed to take necessary measures, and capacity building, through tailor-made training in Universities and at the request of the Ministry of Justice, of English-speaking judicial and Legal Officers, to enable them work in Administrative and Audit Courts,” he added

The Minister revealed that his Ministry will set-up a working group in charge of preparing courses for judicial careers in Universities and courses for training of pupil judicial and legal officers at the Magistracy and Registry Division of ENAM. He also rejoiced the fact that OHADA Law has a complete English version.

While taking questions from journalists, the Minister ruled out the possibility of a pre-trial release of the Anglophones detained at the Kondengui Prison. He said the judiciary in Cameroon is independent and would not entertain the interference of the executive. The Justice Minister quickly brushed away a question on the Advocate General of the Supreme Court, Justice Paul Ayah’s controversial detention, saying nobody is above the law in Cameroon.