A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), has called for reform of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, in order to facilitate efficient disposal of cases.
Agbakoba, who made the call while addressing newsmen in Lagos, on the need for a reevaluation of the legal and justice sectors in the country, said that if these reforms were carried through, it becomes easy to draw a prediction of the state of practice at the Federal High Courts.
He said the Federal High Court rules succeeded the Federal Revenue Court which came into being in 1973.
He said that over 49 years, the rules of practice applicable to the courts witnessed several innovations and reviews under these successive chief judges, and called for a new reform.
According to him, court rules are like “court culture” and like every cultural pattern court culture is dynamic, and reviews are necessary to bring rules up to date with modern trend, and secure continued relevance in a changing world.
He described the present reforms proposed by the immediate past Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, as being the most comprehensive since the era of Justice Alfa Belgore.
According to him, the reform seeks a review and redraft of the Civil procedure rules, Companies Winding up rules, and the Bankruptcy rules, which he said all contained obsolete provisions which had made their application antithetical to achieve.
Agbakoba said that some of the key innovations of the proposed rules include: fundamental objectives, case management, full front loading, and modernisation.
“Fundamental objective is the chief interpretative tool for the rules, in which the judge is obliged to bear the overriding objective in mind throughout the proceedings and parties are required to help the judge further this objective,” he said.
He described case management as being similar to inquisitorial judging but less invasive.
An inquisitorial system is a legal system where the court or a part of the court is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case, as opposed to an adversarial system where the role of the court is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defense.
Inquisitorial systems are used primarily in countries with civil legal systems as opposed to common law systems.
Countries using common law, including the United States, may use an inquisitorial system for summary hearings in the case of misdemeanors such as minor traffic violations.
“With case management powers, the judge can go into the arena of a conflict before it, to curtail derailment or obstruction in order to progress the proceedings,” he said.
He said that if these reforms are carried through, it becomes easy to draw a prognosis of the state of practice at the Federal High Court, which he believes will be more effective in justice dispensation.
“The result will be a regime of practice, that will be able to deliver just and efficient disposal of cases,” he said