Paying Bailiffs is Bribery – Judge
Findings by news correspondents showed that no serious lawyer or litigant would expect his court processes to be served without “mobilising” the bailiffs, the Administrative Judge at the Federal High Court in Lagos, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, said paying bailiff to serve court processes was bribery.
The judge, on May 30, 2017, threatened to order the arrest of a lawyer who said in the open court that he “mobilised” a bailiff with N8,000 to serve his court papers.
The lawyer, who appeared for a case before Justice Olatoregun, had expressed frustration that despite “mobilising” the bailiff with N8,000, the court processes were not served on the necessary parties and no “Proof of Service” was in the case file.
“Did you say you mobilised them (the bailiff)? How much did you give them? Let me know if it was enough,” Justice Olatoregun baited the lawyer.”
“I gave the bailiff N8,000,” the lawyer said justifiably.
But he was surprised when the judge accused him of bribery and threatened to call for his arrest.
Justice Olatoregun explained that bailiffs were paid salaries and allowances and ought not to be “mobilised” by litigants or lawyers to do their job.
She said a litigant who paid a bailiff to serve court processes was guilty of bribing a court official.
She immediately summoned the concerned bailiff and the Deputy Chief Registrar, vowing that she would deal with the case in her chambers.
“When you give a bribe, both of you are liable – both the giver and the receiver. We’ll get the Chief Registrar. You will be handed over to the police for bribing a bailiff. You will explain how you have been bribing bailiffs,” Justice Olatoregun told the lawyer.
The Director, Access to Justice – a non-governmental organisation working as a judiciary watchdog – Mr. Joseph Otteh, said judges could not claim to be ignorant of the activities of the bailiffs.
Otteh said, “Court administrators often know about these illegalities but choose to turn a blind eye to them.”
“We once did a project a couple of years ago showing how administrative corruption was flourishing within the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court with impunity. We were told subsequently that the Chief Judge of the court at that time merely called his administrative staff and told them to be careful. So, many court leaders are indulgent of the practice.”
The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, on December 10, 2018, described the sheriff section of the court as one of the most problematic sections of the judiciary.
She said this in her remarks while presiding over the induction of 47 new court sheriffs employed by the court.
Justice Oke, who assumed office late 2017, has been described as a reformer, for various initiatives to curb delays and instil discipline.
The Chief Judge explained that the recruitment and training of the 47 new sheriffs for three weeks at the Lagos State Judiciary Training School were part of her efforts to sanitise the system.
She described the newly-recruited sheriffs as a new breed, urging them not to blend with the system but to stand out.
She explained that the recruitment of the new sheriffs was targeted at overhauling the old order characterised by “complaints of delays in service, failure to serve, falsification of affidavits of service, delays in reporting service, laziness, ineptitude, corruption, etc.”
“You are a new breed. You represent a new dispensation in the Sheriff Corps, and by the grace of the Almighty God, you have come in at this time to breathe new life and, by God’s grace, to change the old order.”
“You cannot afford to blend with the system. You are expected to stand for what is right at all times. Shun corruption and take your job seriously,” the Lagos CJ said.
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