Perhaps a good starting point for this second part of the Highlights of the Edo State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2018 is to discuss the ADR provisions of Order 26 extensively. Its importance is underscored by strict timelines for taking certain steps and the financial penalties for defaulting in complying with the requirements to facilitate speedy resolution of disputes. Thereafter, we can examine other salient provisions. So, let us give it a go.
1. ADR PROCEDURE AND SANCTIONS
A. All ADR cases must be resolved within 30 days by the Edo State Multi Door Courthouse. (Order 26, Rule 2 (1).
B. The Claimant shall file his Statement of Claim before the ESMDC within 7 days of the Referral Order.
C. The defendant is obliged to file his response within 7 days.
D. Thereafter, both parties have 14 days of the Referral order to file a notice stating that they have filed their Statement of Claim and response. Failure to file the notice attracts a default fine of N200 per day.
E. Any party who fails to comply with the above or participate in the process to resolve the dispute shall face serious sanctions. If he is the claimant, his case will be dismissed. But if he is the Defendants, then the ADR Judge shall enter judgment against him, as appropriate. However, such default judgment is not final. The Order can be set aside if an application is made within 7 days from the judgment giving reasons for the setting aside and also an undertaking to participate fully in the proceedings.
F. Where settlement by ADR is impossible, then the case reverts back to the referring Judge. However, if the party who refused to cooperate with the ADR process loses the case, then such party shall pay a huge fine which the Court will impose.
G. ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS:
This is also a novel provision, whereby a Judge can order a matter to be referred tp one or more arbitrators to determine the matter. The referring judge shall also fix a time for the delivery of the arbitration award.
2. FINE FOR APPLYING FOR ADJOURNMENT ON CASE HEARING DATE:
On a day when a matter is fixed for hearing, further hearing, defence or continuation of defence, then such matter must proceed accordingly.
Any party who truncates the business of the court by either applying for adjournment of filing a motion late in the day and such a motion is not ripe for hearing causing the adjournment of the matter, shall pay to the court a fee of N20, 000 (Twenty Thousand Naira). This fee shall be paid at the time of filing the Motion or making the application. (Order 30)
3. FEE FOR APPLICATIONS TO RE-OPEN A FORECLOSED CASE:
A party who applies to re-open a foreclosed case, shall pay a fee of N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira). He must file the application within 6 days of foreclosure and undertake to be serious with the prosecution of the matter. (Order 30, Rule 12 (3).
4. FEE FOR RELISTING MATTER WHEN STRUCK OUT:
A matter being prosecuted indolently can be struck out by a Judge. Thereafter, a party applying to relist such a matter must pay a court fee of N10,000 (Ten Thousand Naira). (Order 31, Rule 20)
5. N500 DAILY FEE FOR NOT SERVING MOTION WITHIN 5 DAYS:
Every Motion must be served on the other party or parties within 5 days of filing it. Failure to serve will attract a penalty of N500 (Five Hundred Naira) for each day of default. (Order 40, Rule 2 (4).
6. PROCEEDINGS IN REVENUE MATTERS:
Order 56 applies to all matters involving the revenue of the Edo State Government or any Local Governments Council. All claims for revenue against persons shall henceforth be commenced by filing a Petition. The said Petition shall be accompanied with an Affidavit giving the grounds for the application and a written address.
Upon being served with the Petition, the Defence has 21 days to file his reply. This reply shall be in the form of an Affidavit and written address. The Petitioner has 7 days to file his reply, if any. Thereafter, the Court will hear the Petition.
Comment: It remains to be seen if the intendment of this Order is to convert revenue claims from criminal proceedings seeking the incarceration of tax defaulters into purely civil proceedings aimed at debt recovery simpliciter.
7. FAST TRACK CASES:
A New legal vista was opened with fast track cases by a new Order 57. The jurisdiction of fast track judges will be to handle disputes involving:
b. Commerce and Industry
c. Landlord and Tenant
d. Eso State or Local Government Council Revenue
e. Where any party to a case specifically requests for the case to be dealt with by fast track
f. However, cases in (a) and (b) above will only be treated under fast track if the monetary claim is not less than Fifty Million Naira.
g. The Hon. Chief Judge of Edo State discretionarily approve any case for fast track. (Order 57, rule 4)
Some Fast Track things worthy of note:
1. A Fast Track judge can only hear or entertain not more than Three cases a week.
2. If a matter is placed on Fast Track, the Applicant shall pay a filing fee of N100,000 (One Hundred Thousand Naira).
3. Hearing in Fast Track cases shall be from day to day, with no adjournments tolerated.
4. Where a matter is adjourned at the instance of a party, such party shall pay cost of not less than N10,000 (Ten Thousand Naira) for every day of the adjournment to each other party.
5. Where a trial has commenced, the court will proceed even if any counsel, parties or witnesses are absent.
On the whole, the provisions of the 2018 (Civil Procedure) Rules of Edo State are salutary, forward looking and fits right into this day and age, while positioning for relevance tomorrow.
I have no doubt that it will revolutionise the way law is practiced in Edo State. Do well to dexterously acquaint yourself with it.
See you in Court!.
(Dele Igbinedion Esq is a Lawyer and Author of “A Guide to Successful Human Rights Litigation Vol 1”. For comments or questions about this or any of his articles, Telephone/Whatsapp +234 (0)8059863558 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)