Court of Appeal No Longer a Dumping Ground for Those Seeking to Hamper Justice Delivery in Nigeria – – Justice Dongban-Mensem

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There are over 4,630 appeals pending at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.

The court also has 6,207 Motions pending as of December 1, 2020.

The President of the Court, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem gave these statistics in her remarks, during the opening day of the Court of Appeal’s first Working Retreat and Annual Conference of the Justices of the Court of Appeal, holding between December 7-10, with the Theme: Court of Appeal: Challenges &The Way Forward.

The retreat will feature special court sittings by all 70 Justices of the Court of Appeal, drawn from all the Divisions of the Court.

“The purpose is to send out a public message that this Court will no longer be a dumping ground for those who seek to hamper justice delivery in Nigeria. This week, it is also hoped that these special sittings will promote the collegiate spirit, which the Court is renowned for. Thirdly, our actions this week will afford us all a chance to discuss various aspects of our work, health, and wellbeing”, the President said.

Justice Dongban-Mensem also said that “On assumption of office, I discovered that majority of these Appeals, had either been abandoned or purposely left to linger endlessly by mischievous and flippant actors in the litigation process. It is also regrettable to note that a good number of these appeals were filed with the aim of stalling the judicial process. ‘This situation must certainly not be allowed to continue. We have come out to demonstrate our abhorrence by taking the bull by the horn”

“The Working Retreat consists of special court sessions involving 23 Special Appellate Panels. Due to time and space constraints, the Panels will sit in batches of six Special Panels on the designated days between the 7″ and 10″ of December 2020, from the hours of 9am to 12pm daily”.

“Each Panel will hear about 15 ripe appeals with Five Panels sitting at five designated Courtrooms of the National Industrial Court, Ikoyi and one panel at Court 1 of the Court of Appeal here in Lagos Division”.

“A total of 345 appeals, comprising of 289 Commercial Appeals; 10 Human Right Appeals; and 46 Criminal Appeals are scheduled for hearing. The 345 scheduled Appeals for hearing represents only 8% of the total number of Appeals in the Lagos Division.

She stressed that it is their aspiration that the exercise should be a continuous one in their various Divisions until the backlog is greatly reduced.

“Undoubtedly, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, is a critical Division within the Court. It sits at the commercial nerve centre of our great Nation, Nigeria. Despite this, the Division has continued to experience a timeless delay in the hearing of appeals before it, largely due to the volume of appeals in its docket and the limited number of Justices available to hear them,” Dongban- Mensem said.

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“It is my desire and expectation that under my stewardship, delays in the hearing of Appeals will become a thing of the past, not just in Lagos Division but also in other divisions of the Court of Appeal,” she said.

“Also incorporated in these special sessions are enlightening and educative presentations from erudite and educative personalities and professionals such as Mrs. Folake Solanke, SAN, who is the First Woman to attain the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria as well as being among the first indigenous publishers of a Law Report in Nigeria. We specially thank the Learned Silk, who at 88 years of age is present to make a presentation to us, despite the risks to her health arising from the COVID 19 Pandemic.

These sessions begin at 5pm every evening and will not only refresh our minds but also positively impact us. The paper presentations cover an array of topics such as Health, Information, and Communications Technology (ICT) and reminders about the revered traditions of the Legal Profession.”

The Appeal Court president expressed her appreciation to the various heads of Courts.

A Professor of Law, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan SAN, who represented the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria at the event called for the review of the qualifications of senior advocates, stating that most of the frivolous applications at the Appeal Court were being filed by lawyers in order to meet with the prerequisite to becoming a member of the inner bar.

Below is the full text of Justice Dongbam-Mensem’s speech.

PROTOCOL

It gives me great pleasure and privilege to address us all here as we begin the Court of Appeal’s first Working Retreat which will end with the 2020 Annual Conference. The Working Retreat features special court sittings by all Justices of the Court of Appeal, drawn from all the Divisions of the Court. We are presently seventy in number, twenty less than the statutory requirement of 90 Justices of the Court of Appeal.

The purpose of this retreat is to send out a public message that this Court will no longer be a dumping ground for those who seek to hamper justice delivery in Nigeria. This week, it 1s also hoped that these special sittings will promote the collegiate spirit, which the Court is renowned for. Thirdly, our actions this week will afford us all a chance to discuss about various aspects of our work, health and wellbeing.

Undoubtedly, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, 1s a critical Division within the Court. It sits at the commercial nerve centre of our great Nation, Nigeria. Despite this, the Division has continued to experience timeless delay in the hearing of appeals before it, largely due to the volume of appeals in its docket and the limited number of Justices available to hear them.

The statistics of Appeals currently lodged at the Court reveal that as at the 1″ of December 2020, there are presently over 4,630 Appeals and 6,207 Motions pending in the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal. On assumption of office, I discovered that majority of these Appeals, had either been abandoned or purposely left to lnger endlessly by mischievous and flippant actors in the litigation process. It is also regrettable to note that a good number of these appeals were filed with the aim of stalling the judicial process. ‘This situation must certainly not be allowed to continue. We have come out to demonstrate our abhorrence by taking the bull by the horn.

This Working Retreat consists of special court sessions involving 23 Special Appellate Panels. Due to time and space constraints, the Panels will sit in batches of six Special Panels on the designated days between the 7″ and 10″ of December 2020, from the hours of 9am to 12pm daily. Each Panel will hear about 15 ripe appeals with Five Panels sitting at five designated Court rooms of the National Industrial Court, Ikoyi and one panel at Court 1 of the Court of Appeal here in Lagos Division.

A total of 345 appeals, comprising of 289 Commercial Appeals; 10 Human Right Appeals; and 46 Criminal Appeals are scheduled for hearing. The 345 scheduled Appeals for hearing represents only 8% of the total number of Appeals in Lagos Division. The task ahead may appear daunting, but we are resolute in our determination to decongest the Court. It 1s therefore our aspiration that the exercise should be a continuous one in our various Divisions until the backlog is greatly reduced.

Also incorporated in these special sessions are enlightening and educative presentations from erudite and educative personalities and professionals such as Mrs. Folake Solanke, SAN, who is the First Woman to attain the Rank of Semor Advocate of Nigeria as well as being among the first indigenous publishers of a Law Report in Nigeria. We specially thank the Learned Silk, who at 88 years of age is present to make a presentation to us, despite the risks to her health arising from the COVID 19 Pandemic. We pray that the Almighty God continues to strengthen and uphold her.

These sessions begin at 5pm every evening and will not only refresh our minds but also positively impact us. The paper presentations cover an array of topics such as Health, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and reminders about the revered traditions of the Legal Profession.

We express profound appreciations to the various heads of Courts who have actively demonstrated the harmony in the Third Arm of Government. We sincerely appreciate my Lord, the Hon. Justice John Tsoho, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, who offered us the use of the Court’s premises as well as offices and the Federal High Court’s vehicles for the Justices of our

Court. I must also extend our profound gratitude to my Lord, the Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, the President of the National

Industrial Court, who literally shut down the Lagos Division of the National Industrial Court in order to accommodate us following the vandalisation of our own Court.

We also appreciate our Chief Host, the Hon. Chief Judge of Lagos State, the Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba, who had already permitted us to use 24 Court halls, some of which were unfortunately burnt down following the violence that trailed the END SARS protest. The support and courtesies they have extended to us is indeed memorable and they must be specially recognised. My Lords we are most grateful.

I also thank the Nigerian Bar Association and the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria for their cooperation in ensuring the success of this exercise. The Courts would be hollow without the Lawyers; we therefore appreciate the unflinching support of the Princes to the Court, the Learned Silks and other learned counsel who have come out in their numbers to support the special session. We look forward to a harmonious working experience with all of you.

May I also specially thank all my Brother Justices and the Support Staff of the Court of Appeal for their unquantifiable support; without the support of you all, it would have been difficult to conceive of this event; you have all been wonderful and I thank you all.

It is my desire and expectation that under my stewardship, delays in the hearing of Appeals will become a thing of the past, not just in Lagos Division but also in other divisions of the Court of Appeal. I look forward to walking hand in hand with each and every one of you towards the bold new direction of our hallowed Court.

I thank you for your kind audience and wish us all the best of the week ahead.

May God bless us all and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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