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Home Law A NEW LEGAL YEAR MESSAGE - BAYO AKINLADE ESQ

A NEW LEGAL YEAR MESSAGE – BAYO AKINLADE ESQ

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Nigerian Lawyers spend millions of Naira each year attending Bar Conferences. I tried to imagine how many Nigerian Lawyers attend the international Bar Association meetings and how much they spend on any given trip. Another IBA is here and many lawyers are currently attending so let’s imagine 100 Nigerian Lawyers attending at the cost of N800,000.00 (cost flight, feeding and accommodation) per participant, that equals about N80,000,000.00 (wow) on “Legal tourism” Now what do you think that money can do for the Justice sector in Nigeria if lawyers decide to invest in the justice sector as a panacea to economic growth and investor confidence?

I was at the Ikeja high court recently, there are now 2 new, remodelled gates and the courts are painted on the outside but still ugly on the inside. Roofs are still leaking, courtrooms seats are still broken and insufficient, Judges are still writing longhand, sheriffs, registrars and court officials still frustrate litigants and lawyers and force them to part with money to FACILITATE their work etc. The buildings look pretty on the outside but justice is slow and ugly on the inside.

I ask myself in this new legal year what has changed or what will change? As I once again share my thoughts as I did last year, I will continue to hope, engage with the BAR and the BENCH and play my part as a stakeholder. It is clear that CORRUPTION is in the heart of the problem, misplaced priorities and the lack of political will to act.

I have heard many excuses as to why our judiciary is the way it is but one question I ask relating to the problem of staffing and infrastructure of the Judiciary is simple: how come the ministry of justice in Lagos state (for instance) has well over 500 lawyers in its employ (that’s the executive arm of government) but the Judiciary has less than 200 lawyers serving as Judges and Magistrates? The government can afford 57 LCDAs but cant afford to put up a court building in everyone of those LCDA to bring justice closer to the people?

Let me share some of my thoughts:

CORRUPTION CESSPOOLS WITHIN THE LAGOS JUDICIARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW TO REDUCE THE INCIDENCE OF CORRUPTION

The following departments/areas/players within the judiciary structure has been identified as causes of and potential avenues for corruption within the Judiciary

1. The Sherriff Department
(a) Service of Originating Processes and other processes: The requirement that only the Sheriffs can serve some certain processes has greatly encouraged corruption within the Department as Sheriffs would usually demand money from lawyers and litigants to go and serve processes and depose to affidavit of service
(b) Executing Court Orders: The Sheriffs have unduly enriched themselves by demanding huge sums to execute court judgements

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
The rules already provide an alternative where Legal Practitioners and Courier services may also serve originating processes. This rule needs to be put to practice immediately

All Judgements can be and should be enforced by an individual who obtained the warrant. Such individual may enlist the help of the Sherriff department, the police or a lawyer

2. The Judiciary Tax office: The tax office was set up within the Judiciary to assist the Executive arm capture the data of tax payers and to bring others within the tax bracket but it has become a cesspool for corrupt practices as tax officials now sign off on the tax payable by a surety only after the surety has parted with at least N10,000 as bribe for the speedy processing of the tax document for the purpose of perfecting the bail thereby short-changing not only the individual but also the government

The high handedness of the tax officials have resulted to many accused persons spending days in prison custody as they are not able to perfect their bail on time therefore defeating the efforts of decongesting the Prisons

It is against every fundamental human rights principle that an accused person who has been granted bail will be remanded because his surety cannot provide a tax document at the time his bail is granted

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
The Magistrate should be given the powers to determine what tax is payable after hearing counsel for the accused person on the issue.

Evidence of payment of such tax must be produced at the next adjourned date and not to be required for the perfection of bail.

3. The Prosecutors:
(a) Verifying Addresses of Surety: The Court Prosecutors extort money from litigants and lawyers when they insist that they must be paid to verify the addresses of Sureties
(b) Withdrawing a criminal charge: When a Complainant is no longer interested in prosecuting a matter, some prosecutors extort money from the accused in order to drop the charges

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Addresses can be verified by the presentation of any of the following without need to physically go to the address: an Electric Bill, Water Bill, Bank Statement, Voters’ Card, Drivers’ licence and a National ID card (An accused person was remanded in kirikiri just because the prosecutor had to go and feed her baby at home at 3.30pm and did not have time to go to verify the surety’s address)

QUESTION: In the event that a surety resides in Badagry and stands as surety for an accused before an Ikorodu Magistrate Court; what will be the fate of the accused person?
A Magistrate/Judge should have the power to discharge an accused person in the absence of the complainant after he has been absent for up to 2 consecutive court sitting

4. The Court Registrars:
(a) Issuance of Hearing Notices: Court Registrars demand money to issue hearing notices
(b) CTC of court records and Judgements: Demand for money to type/photocopy court judgements and records
(c) Filing of originating processes: Registrars in the process department demand for money for file jackets and file tags

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Hearing Notices can be issued simply by allowing the lawyer to issue such notice under his hand and provide an acknowledge copy accompanied by an affidavit deposed to by him or by the person who served the hearing notice personally

Payment for CTCs should be assessed, all costs considered (typing and photocopy) and it must be receipted

Payment of filling fees should include all items necessary for filling and duly receipted. In the event that there are no files or tags (a situation that should never exists) the process should be kept safe in the registry until such file and tags are supplied

The problems stated above are not exhaustive but they form part of the most vexing issues the administration of justice is facing.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION
Judges/Magistrates must be alert as to what their court staff do and say. We need more Judicial activism on the part of the Bench.
We received many complaints and are happy to engage with the Judiciary to work out policies/practice directions that will reduce c

Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary (FIACIJ) is a national watchdog group set up within the Facebook Community to Resist, Record and Report all acts of Corruption within the Judiciary. Its aim is also to proffer policy recommendations that will reduce the scourge of corruption within the most revered arm of Government.

By: Adebayo Akinlade

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