Lagos Lawyers Bellow Over Slow Pace of Judiciary Administration
By Steve Aya
Lawyers in Lagos State have demanded urgent reforms to judicial administration, as the current slow pace is not good for business.
This was the main subject of a meeting between Lawyers representing all the Branches of the Nigerian Bar Association in Lagos State on Thursday July 28, 2022, at the Chambers of the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba.
Leading the NBA Team were Dr Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, Dr Monday Ubani, Mr Yinka Farounbi, Ms Patience Patrick-Udoh and Chairmen of all NBA branches in Lagos State. The meeting was also attended by the Honourable Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN.
In recent times, there have been protests from Lawyers and litigants, particularly concerning the slow and frustrating process of filing papers in the Registry of the Court, due to the ineffectiveness of the Judicial Information System.
Welcoming the Bar leaders, the Chief Registrar of the High Court, Magistrate Tajudeen Elias, said that the meeting was part of the existing statutory meetings between the Bar and the Bench.
The Chief Judge who was openly delighted, said he is happy that there is an avenue for the Bar and the Bench to interact.
Dr Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, who presented the case of NBA, pointing out that the human interface in the JIS system of e-filing is frustrating the process of access to justice, stated that it takes an average of one or two months for a permanent suit number to be assigned to a new case, even with an affidavit of urgency. He cited the example of Rivers State, where the e-filing system has been working effectively. He stated further that, there must be the political will to support the system with functional infrastructure for optimal performance, given the position that Lagos State occupies in the Judiciary in Nigeria.
Contributing to the matter at hand, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN gave a firsthand experience at the E-filing Section of the Lagos Division of the Court. He gave particulars of a new case that he filed in July 2, 2022, and only got the permanent suit number last week. He said he was at the Court Registry personally on Tuesday July 26, 2022, to continue the process of filing a fundamental right application with an affidavit of urgency that was commenced the previous day, July 25, 2022. He could not complete the filing until late in the afternoon, by which time the vacation Judge had risen for the day.
Responding to the problem as stated, Justice Alogba said that he had heard of these complaints, but no one had given him specific particulars of how cases are being delayed to enable him deal with the situation decisively. He empathised that the Governor of Lagos State is very much concerned about the Judiciary, and he takes issues relating to the administration of justice as top priority. He assured the Bar that efforts are ongoing, to improve the e-filing system.
In his contribution, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, stated that it is necessary to fast track the process of access to justice, and he gave assurance that the Judiciary would do its best to ensure that the filing system is self-operative, to remove human interface. He said a timeline should be worked out before the end of the current annual vacation of the court, to implement a completely self-operated e-filing system.
At the end of the deliberations, it was resolved that the processes of e-filing will be thoroughly overhauled to remove the need for human interface in order to reduce or minimize physical presence in the filing process.
It was also resolved that a joint task force between the Bar and the Judiciary will be set up to monitor the smooth execution of all issues agreed upon at the meeting.
The meeting agreed on September 1, 2022, as the take off date of the new e-filing system that will remove the need for physical presence at the Court Registry.