Bayo Akinlade Esq., South West Coordinator of “Policy and Law Reform Center” recently had a chat with the Assistant Deputy sheriff and the most senior Sheriff in the Sheriff Corp. The interaction was to review complaints made by the Bar and general public as well as to get feedback from the department on what they are doing to address these numerous complaints.
The report below is from Mr. Bayo Akinlade:
No doubt the sheriff department is an integral part of the judiciary and to justice as a whole, yet it is a department that is barely reckoned with. Perhaps this is because the department features mostly at the beginning of a court process and at the end [if need be]. However, we have seen cases challenged all the way to the Supreme Court concerning service of processes, hearing notices, executions etc.
The LAGOS high court Civil Procedure Rules [CPR] sought to cure some shortfalls in the SD [sheriffs department] by providing other options for serving originating processes but the implementation of the rules in this regard has been slow or none existent. While the judiciary continues to look at ways to solve these thorny issues of service and executions, the entire workings of the SD has been plagued with all manner of petitions bothering on corruption, highhandedness of sheriffs, collusion, manipulations, conversion of property seized, compromises and the likes.
BUT is the SD to blame for all these atrocities? I don’t think so. Lawyers, litigants and other institutions, especially the police collude with lawyers and some sheriffs to bring about this gross mistrust of the SD.
We know the problems so we won’t waste time restating and complaining about it. Let us focus on the solutions.
- The Judiciary should provide either cars, motorcycles or tricycles for SHERIFFS to assist them do their jobs
- We need to Equip the Sheriffs with better security gadgets or ensure that police officers are attached permanently to the department as escorts for sheriffs on duty.
- We need to Provide Sheriffs with internet enabled electronic tablets connected to the Judiciary Information system [JIS] so that at the point of service they can upload their evidence of service without coming to the office. They can also take pictures with the tablets upon effecting substituted service.
- Lawyers must not be allowed to interact with the SD unless under circumstances where there is a formal complaint.
- Lawyers must provide a detailed, verifiable and identifiable address on their processes and where necessary; assist the SD by providing a pointer to the address for service or person to be served.
- The SD should formally publish it’s internal operational protocols and rules to minimize the incidence of extortion.
- Sheriffs must immediately desist from using touts, however, the Judiciary must consider employing more persons into the sheriff Corp.
- All divisions of the High Court of Lagos must have a fully functional SD capable of providing all services rendered by the SD in Ikeja and LAGOS Divisions.
- The Sheriff and Civil Processes Act [SCPA] should be reviewed with a view to privatizing the SD.
- Other postal services and establishments such as law firms should be granted the powers to serve originating processes as already provided for in the CPR.
- The requirements for application for substituted service should expunged and sheriffs should be empowered to use their discretion to serve through substituted means upon their inability to serve personally.
- All property seized by the court must be handled by an independent auctioning and storage company with oversight from the Courts through the SD.
- Mileage fees should be adequately accessed by distance and current transportation costs. Some current cost are not adequate.
There are many more suggestions but it is important to note here that unless The Judiciary budget is adequate and substantial, our judiciary will continue to be weighed down by politicians and inefficient staffs.
The Judiciary also needs to be more forthcoming on its plans and internal operations by regularly sharing ideas with the NBA.
The Judiciary is encouraged to review it’s agreements with the JIS PLATFORM and insist on upgrading services provided by the system.
A think-tank committee should be set up made up of professionals in the area of policy formulation, public relations, finance and government lobbyist to drive ideas that will make for a speedy and more efficient judiciary.
The Judiciary should set up helplines and direct complaints lines for texting and watsapp complaints.
We at Policy and Law Reform Center through the FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION IN THE JUDICIARY FACEBOOK MOVEMENT will continue to do our best to support the Bar and the Bench with ideas in ensuring a corrupt free Judiciary.