Citizens Rally against Oppression has written to the five branches of the Nigerian Bar Association in Lagos to resist the proposed High Court Civil Procedure rules on the grounds that it is obnoxious and will manifest hardship on litigants.
The letter dated 21st of November signed by Adesina Ogunlana Esq and Ayo Ademiluyi Esq is published below
21st November, 2018.
NBA Lagos Branch
NBA Ikeja Branch
NBA Ikorodu Branch
NBA Badagry Branch
NBA Epe Branch,
RE: PROPOSED IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HIGH COURT OF LAGOS STATE (CIVIL PROCEDURE RULES) 2018
Citizens Rally Against Oppression (CR), an organization of social activists committed to tackling societal injustices, oppression and ensuring better governance in public and private sectors in Nigeria feels compelled to communicate you on the above subject matters.
It has come to the notice of our organization that an incipient evil, innocuously termed the proposed High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2018 is about to be visited on the Lagos State Public of about 24 million people as from January, 2019.
We understand that the authorities of the Lagos State Judiciary in charge of the administration of justice in Lagos State and in obedience and agreement with the Executive arm of government in Lagos State is determined to make the Lagos State Judiciary ten times a government revenue source than before by astronomically increasing the fees paid for the use of the Courts of the State.
We understand for example that filing fees for cases, costs and sundry penalties are now to become exponentially high, filing out of prescribed time under the Rules is to attract a N1,000 fine per day, from the N200 rate it was before and to become N5,000 within the next five years. The cost of filing cases attracts the same range of 500% – 700% increment, while the minimal sanction fines, only payable to the Lagos State Judiciary, where a party is adjudged to stall proceedings for whatsoever reasons including circumstances beyond mortal remedy is N100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira)!
The consequence of these new financial provisions is clear and immediate. The cost of litigating in Lagos State Court shall become too much to bear for the average Lagosian and will seek remedies elsewhere, including self-help.
Gentlemen, do you think the authorities of the Lagos State Judiciary care about this sad and inevitable consequence. Hell, NO!
According to the Chief Judge of Lagos State, His Lordship, Honourable Justice Opeyemi Oke, was heard to say at the recent Civil Procedure Summit of the Lagos State Judiciary, court fees must be in accord with the present economic realities of the state. The Chief Judge openly wondered whether what Legal Practitioners were charging for their cases in 2001 when the fees were supposedly reviewed last (which is not true, at any rate) was what they are maintaining in 2018?
In further defense of the prohibitive nature of the Reviewed Rules, the Chief Judge also argued that courts of the land are not meant to be ready recourse of the masses but “the LAST HOPE of the common man!”, meaning the masses of our people should approach the courts only when all other options are exhausted.
This is the philosophy behind the proposed rules and the justification for same and which is obviously found attractive with Lagos State Judges because their privileged stations and enhanced economic power can very easily cope with the demands of the type of regime of fees they are prescribing. After all it is no secret that Lagos State High court Judges earn no less than 18 million naira salary per annum, live in accommodation worth beyond five hundred million naira, are entitled to luxurious and prestigious vehicles and are entitled to sundry emoluments, benefits, allowances in excess of 20 million naira yearly.
Lagos State Judges live lives of not just comfort and privilege but of luxury and are such ordinarily unaware of the dire economic straits of the masses of the populace they sit upon as adjudicators. The fact is while the Judges are ensconced in relative financial opulence, the masses of our people daily struggle with grinding and humiliating poverty.
We very much respectfully call on your leadership of the Bar in Lagos State to see the proposed High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2018, not only as a weapon against affordable access to justice in Lagos State but also a veritable ATTACK ON THE TRADE OF YOUR MEMBERS.
Should these horrendous Rules come into effect, we can assure the dearth of litigants in court, chased away by the diverse, prohibitive and oppressive costs. Of course, where the large percentage of the litigating public shuns the court, the sorry fate of the advocates is predictable. No business survives, less talk thrives in the absence of ready and adequate supply of patrons.
Furthermore, we urge your leadership to reject the argument that the application of prohibitive costs will serve the end of awakening counsel from complacence and delay tactics to enhance speedier administration of justice. It is an argument parochial and with due respect, not well founded.
The more fundamental causes of delay in the administration of justice in Lagos State lie more in the judicial system and personnel including the judges. The threshold services for one are epileptic, capricious and convoluted due to insufficient personnel, corruption, inadequate knowledge and technical capacity. The adjudicatory stage is marred heavily again with insufficient man-power (just 55 judges or so in a burgeoning industrial/commercial/political city of about 24 million people) asides the challenges of incompetence, restricted managerial acumen and sloth affecting no less than at least two fifths of a lean judicial work-force! The problem is even worse at the post-adjudicatory stage (execution) where reaping the fruits of judgment of hard-won and long-drawn litigation is oft times illusionary.
In the light of all the foregoing, Citizens Rally urges your leadership to rise to the occasion of effectively stopping the implementation of the obnoxious Court Use Charge Rules. You have, clearly an historic, professional and patriotic responsibility to defend and protect the Lagos masses from the unfeeling avarice and oppression of an administration which instead of seeing the courts as a pillar of democracy and compulsory social contract of the government with the people, consider it as a MILK COW.
Do not forget gentlemen and leaders of the Bar, that your Association was excluded from the Review Committee. It was no accident or error, but a deliberate stratagem to achieve a clearly anti-people and anti-legal profession agenda.
We therefore advise and indeed plead that your leadership should as a matter of urgency, even before December 2019, organize a joint meeting of the various Branches to put heads together to confront a common enemy, which is the obnoxious Rules.
THERE IS FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT FOR THE PROFESSION! FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY! FIGHT FOR ACCESS TO JUSTICE!
Long live the Nigerian Bar Association!
Long live the Legal Profession in Nigeria!
Adesina Ogunlana Esq. Ayo Ademiluyi Esq.