A lawyer, Mr Tope Alabi, has sued Lagos State Chief Judge Lagos, Justice Opeyemi Oke, over the sale of seals in the High Court and Magistrate Court Registries.
In his originating summons, he is seeking a declaration that the introduction and sale of seals and non-acceptance of his processes for filing on the basis that there were no seals on them is illegal and unconstitutional.
He filed the suit at the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja.
The Chief Registrar, the Lagos State Judicial Service Commission, Lagos State Judiciary, Attorney-General of Lagos and Justice Oke are the defendants.
Alabi said the court officials’ insistence that he must buy the seal and attach it to his supporting affidavits amounts to denying him and his clients access to justice.
He is praying for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants or their agents from compelling litigants to purchase the seal when filing cases, processes or deposing to affidavits.
He also wants the court to perpetually restrain the defendants or their agents from further producing or supplying the seals.
The lawyer urged the court to determine whether, based on its rules and the 1999 Constitution, its officials can validly force litigants to buy the seals for N250 before they can file documents in court.
Alabi said in all the laws, statutes and rules governing the court’s affairs, there was no legal basis for imposing the sale of the seals on court users.
“The defendants cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand,” he said in his written address.
Alabi also filed a motion ex-parte praying for an order of interim injunction restraining the defendants from compelling him and other litigants to purchase seals.
In a supporting affidavit which he personally deposed to, Alabi said he was at the court’s Lagos division on October 31 to file a motion for change of counsel. In addition to the regular charges, he said he was charged additional N250 for a seal affixed to his affidavit in support of the motion. He said he complained to the Assistant Chief Registrar.
“He informed me that the order was from above, and that it was beyond him. I was also at the Lagos Judicial division of the High Court of Lagos State on the 6th day of November, 2017 for filing of affidavit of service.
“The court officials, precisely the cashiers, denied me filing on ground that I did not give them the sum of N250 for the seal,” he said.
Alabi said he complied with the pre-action requirements, adding that “it is in the interest of justice to restrain the defendants from compelling the claimant or any legal practitioner or litigant to purchase the seals.”
It would be recalled that the Lagos State Judiciary had on Monday 24th July, 2017 commenced the sale of seal to be affixed on court document.
According to a circular issued by the Lagos state Judiciary in this regard, the seals which is sold at the rate of N250 per unit was introduced to curb leakages and give authenticity to documents issued from the Lagos State Judiciary.
No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.