Lawyers from all the branches of the Nigerian Bar Association in Lagos State have met with the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba, to discuss issues relating to the administration of justice in the state.
Led by Bar leaders and senior lawyers, the chairmen of NBA, Lagos Branch, Ikeja Branch, Ikorodu Branch, Badagry Branch, Epe Branch, Surulere Branch and other selected Bar leaders, all gathered together to brainstorm with Alogba.
The meeting which was held on Thursday was also attended by the Honourable Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, according to a statement by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, on Friday.
The statement was titled, ‘Lagos Lawyers Storm CJ Lagos’s Chambers, Demand Urgent Reforms’.
Leading the NBA team was Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, Dr Monday Ubani, Mr. Yinka Farounbi, Ms Patience Patrick-Udoh and chairmen of all NBA branches.
Welcoming the Bar leaders, the Chief Registrar of the High Court, Magistrate Tajudeen Elias, said that the meeting was part of the existing statutory meetings between the Bar and the Bench.
The leader of the NBA team, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, presented the case of NBA, pointing out that the human interface in the JIS system of e-filing was frustrating the process of access to justice.
He stated that it takes an average of one or two months for a permanent suit number to be assigned to a new case, even with an affidavit of urgency.
He cited the example of Rivers State, where the e-filing system has been working effectively. He stated further there must be the political will to support the system with functional infrastructure for optimal performance, given the position that Lagos State occupies in the judiciary in Nigeria.
In his response, Alogba stated that he had heard of these complaints but no one had given him specific particulars of how cases are being delayed to enable him to deal with the situation decisively.
He empathised that the Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was concerned about the judiciary and he takes issues relating to the administration of justice as top priority. He assured the Bar that efforts are ongoing to improve the e-filing system.
In his contribution, Adegboruwa gave a first-hand experience at the e-filing section of the Lagos Division of the Court. He gave particulars of a new case that he filed on July 2, 2022, and only got the permanent suit number last week.
He said he was at the Court Registry himself on Tuesday July 26, 2022 to continue the process of filing a fundamental rigged application with an affidavit of urgency that was commenced the previous day July 25, 2022.
He could not complete the filing until late in the afternoon, by which time the vacation judge had risen for the day.
“Litigants and litigation clerks had to leave their homes very early in the morning in order to pick a number to stay on a queue, for a process that will not commence until 9am when the generator powering the building is activated and it will be off by 2pm when all activities will be shut down.
“The environment of the e-filing system is too choking, dangerously crowded and generally unsuitable, the location being at the basement of the building where internet connection is either so very poor or unavailable at all. The system shuts itself down most times,” the statement quoted him as saying.
Alogba, however, directed those concerned to note all the observations for immediate action, while pointing out that there was a consultant engaged for the e-filing processes.
He stated that part of the challenge being faced by the judiciary in Lagos State was due to the EndSARS experience which led to the destruction of the JIC Taylor iconic building and monument.
He said the new building may be ready for use by December 2022. The Chief Judge also stated that a new Commercial Division is being constructed at the former Tapa Street Magistrates Court premises to accommodate about 10 modern courtrooms. He appealed to the Bar for understanding, given the peculiar challenges.