E-Filing Challenge in Lagos: Most of the Complains are Not Legitimate – Lagos Chief Judge

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The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Honourable Justice K.O Alogba has said that most of the complains by lawyers and litigants about the E-filing system at the Lagos High Court Registries are not legitimate. My Lord stated this while responding to questions posed to him by Channels Television Judicial Correspondence, Sola Soyele.

According to His Lordship, one of the major challenges of the E-filing system is the fact that law firms who are meant to upload court processes themselves would rather go to the Registry to queue to upload than do so in their offices thereby putting pressure on court staff and causing delays.

Below is a transcript of the aspect of the interview on E-filing:

Sola Soyele: My Lord, one innovation that was introduced to check delays in our court system is the electronic filing system and when I put it out on social media that I was going to get an opportunity to have an exclusive interview with the CJ, this was the issue a lot of people wanted me to ask the CJ. In fact one person said the current filing system is so frustrating, to file a simple affidavit can take 3 days. Sometimes our litigation officers will get to the court as early as 5 am and they will get no 37 and even at 5pm it hasn’t gotten to their turn but that once you are willing to tip of some of the Judicial workers in place they can fast track you. Is milord aware of this?

Justice Alogba: I am aware of complaints. But the truth of the matter is that I don’t want to give a 100% clean bill of health to the judiciary. But the public that we serve too have a lot to contribute in ensuring that the system works well. One and the major issue, is the issue of uploading, litigants are meant to upload themselves. They don’t need to come to the court to upload. That is what most of them do. Either because they don’t know how to do or they just simply won’t do it. Now they come to court to upload our staff who are meant to go to the next stage of processing after uploading are the same staff who attend to them and helping them to upload at no fee.

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Sola Soyele: That part is debatable because a lot of them say that they pay to fast track the process.

Justice Alogba: I want to talk about what is legitimate not  what goes under the table because it takes two to tango. If you choose to go and give anybody money, then you are a particeps criminis so you cannot complain. If it is a legitimate service that ought to be given to you after you have paid for it you will insist on it and if it is not given to you, then you complain to me then I can take steps. But I have not been able to be furnished with any clear case of compromise so that we co take steps

Sola Soyele: How can people complain Milord, What channel should people complain at?

Justice Alogba: In the first place each unit has a head,  if you complain to the head of unit and you are not satisfied, you go to the next level, for example in litigation. E filing is litigation, you have the ACR there. You have the person who is in charge of E filing  if you are not satisfied with the service offered there, you go to the ACR , if the ACR cannot satisfy you, you have an HOD the head of department who is a Chief Magistrate. I am sure even if don’t get satisfied at that level, you have the Chief Registrar. If you are such that you cannot still be satisfied by anything offered by the Chief Registrar, the Chief Judge is there or the Admin Judge is there before you get to the Chief Judge. If you have a legimate complain, you should be able to go through all the stages available to complain. If you are sure  that you are not compromising anybody along the line. So all these complains in most cases are not really legitimate

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Sola Soyele: The other day they were calling us frantically to bring our camera that they were fighting at TBS that the E filing process is not working.

Justice Alogba: TBS there is a problem. One, we are not the owners of that building. You have the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission there. I understand that they have some equipment which could interfere with our facilities being used at the E-filing unit there. Secondly because of the effect of the Endsars on us. We are still struggling for spaces even for so many court officers as we speak. At TBS it is worse because that is the only building we are left  with in the Lagos judicial division. We cannot take JIS to Tinubu court, no space. So, that is the only building that is available to us on the Lagos Island. And so we have had to use the basement and that is the only space we can get for them at least for them to move immediately. So being at the basement also contributes to the problem of connectivity there. I don’t want to say what I am not too sure of but I understand that there is an equipment there that affect signals. So that affects the computers being used in  the E filings unit there. As we speak, I have been there a number of times myself, I have talked to lawyers there and have pointedly asked then; what are you doing here? “I am here to upload. Why are you coming here to upload are you not meant to upload in your office? But because they are people we offer service, we can’t do without them, although there is a limit to which we can tolerate what ought not to be.

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What did I do? I called on my JIS staff at the ICT staff, let us assist these people the more so that we can decrease the number of people coming to do E filing at our premises. And they have given training to some branches of the Bar Association free of charge. That much we have done for them. So as I speak to you, Lagos and Ikeja they have had such free trainings. We still have Ikorodu Epe and Badagry because of the number and because we want as many as possible to be able to attend  we are trying to ensure that they are taken together and then they are also given that training

Before now, I decided that we would stop uploading for people before the end of February, but then I had to bend backwards, alright let’s give them some more time because we still have to do the training to NBA Ikorodu Badagry and Epe. I will extend it to end of March. I am going to have a Bar-Bench Forum meeting mid this month  I will officially disclose that to them.

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Other issues that My Lord spoke about are the rebuilding pf the damaged Igbosere High Court, efforts at reconstruction of burnt courts files, more appointment of judges for Lagos virtual court sittings and non prior notice on courts not sitting

Watch full interview here

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