Filing a Matter in Court: A Sprint or a Marathon – Bayo Akinlade Esq.


A few months back, I gave a step by step guide to filing a matter in the High Courts of Lagos State. I concluded that the process was flawed in so many ways despite the beautiful innovations put in place by the Lagos State judiciary to make the process faster and easier. The human interface in the filing process has caused great hardship and encouraged corruption in the judiciary – this is regrettable.

I am however glad that the new Chief Judge of Lagos is making efforts to see that the filing process and indeed other issues of court services and business are carried out with speed and efficiency. It will however take some time and will the need the cooperation of all court users to ensure there is a change.

I will now take us through filing process at the Magistrate Courts.

Unlike the High Courts, the Magistrate Courts are not yet linked to the Judicial Information Service (JIS) portal so everything is still manual.

1. Take your file to the Assistant Chief Registrar (ACR) of the Magistrate Court in the District where you want to file your suit for initialling (please note that the ACRs are only located in specific areas in Lagos so find the one in the area you want to file the action)

2. Go to the cash office for assessment and payment (note: any payment above N2, 000 will have to be paid at a specific bank at a specific location)

3. After payment, obtain your receipts and take your file to the Process section (the only thing they do here is to write the suit number and the name of the parties on the file jacket)

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4. Take your file back to the ACR, who gives you a return date and sends your file to the Chief Magistrate in charge of assigning cases for the case to be assigned to a court within the district (this can be done on the same day or you may be asked to return after a week)

5. The service copy of your process is sent to the sheriff department for service (we all know what that means… need to follow up on this otherwise you can’t go on with your case)

There is no point analysing the problems we face going through this whole process, money is demanded of the lawyer at every stage of the filing process not to mention the fact that you may have to travel a long distance to the designated bank which may have network issues etc. the truth is that filing may take up to 2 or 3 days to conclude under this filing regime at the magistrate court.

What is worrisome is the extortive behaviour of court officials in the filing process. Lawyers and litigants alike are harassed and extorted. This causes frustration and further erodes the perceived integrity of the Judiciary. People lose confidence in the judiciary because if they have to bribe at this early stage just to file a matter, what will be required of them when the case begins?

We at FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION IN THE JUDICIARY (FIACIJ) with the support of all the Branches of the NBA in Lagos are calling on all lawyers to stand their ground against corrupt practices in our Magistrate Courts. If you need assistance, call us and we will stand with you to resist it.

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You are encouraged to report all extortive behaviour to the Chief Magistrate or any Magistrate within the Court when faced with this challenges or call/watsapp 08065172866.
(FIACIJ is a message and nationwide movement – join us by Resisting, Refusing and Reporting Corrupt Practices in our Courts)


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