By Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.
“My Lord ,Counsel did not mobolise me ,that is why I did not serve the process “
That was the answer of a Bailiff to an Enquiry by My Lord, a Presiding Judge of a Court ,where I was present sometime ago ,some where in Nigeria ,for which My Lord said “Counsel do the needful “.
This is what happens almost in every Court in Nigeria.Even worse happens in some Courts in which the Baillifs have turned the so called mobilisation to high stake extortions .
I have checked the Civil Procedure Rules of all the Courts ,I ply my trade in Nigeria,There is no where the Rules of Court directed Lawyers or Litigants to mobolise Bailiffs.
Mobilisation of Court Bailiffs is part of the mobilisation syndrome in Nigerian.We mobilise contractors,mobolise the Police ,wait for this ,we even mobolise Pastors and Imam to come pray for us .The mobilisation chain ,goes on and on .
Truth is ,that this whole charade by the Bailiffs is out right corruption and on this scale, the Judiciary should re-invent itself.
Lawyers and Litigants pay for service and Kilo at Court Registries ,why should they pay for mobilisation of Bailiffs ? I concede that the money paid as service and kilo is small and can not take the Bailiffs to the points of service of the processes.
I propose that the there should be precise costing of the actual price of service of processes and the money should be paid into a separate Account to be controlled by the Chief Bailiff of the Court under the supervision of the CR or DCR as the case may be.
The Chief Bailiff will then get a copy of the processes filed and while issuing same for service to the Bailiff,the sum paid by the Counsel or Litigant ,should be contemporaneously disbursed to the Bailiff for the immediate service of the process .There should also be Practice Direction or it should be incorporated in our Rules that for what ever reasons processes must be served within 3 days of it being issued to the Bailiff for Service. The Bailiff should be specifically mentioned for clarity and certainty and there should be penalties for default of same .
While some Bailiffs work very hard ,there are still some who are indolent .
This will bring about proper accountability and efficiency in the service of processes .
It will also stop all those phenomenon of expired writs and it will lead to a more speedy dispensation of justice .
And since Supreme Courts have stated that Emails and SMSes are good Service,we should leverage on technology to Serve processes vide Emails and confirm same through recorded calls.
We also implore the authorities to use SMSes to send Hearing Notices .This has worked magic at the Court of Appeal,particularly in the Benin Division,where dilligence and efficient flow of information is their watch word ,especially the Court of Appeal ,Benin Front Desk Section ,perhaps the most efficient any where in Nigeria ,led by the astute,efficient but officious Mrs. Tugai.
When a Court is not Sitting ,the Bailiff should also inform Counsel as it is efficiently done at the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal ,Benin of such development,vide Sms or even Whstssap message.
The World is moving very fast with the use of technology in the dispensation of Justice ,we must also move with our peers .