NBA Gets Nod to Set Up Court Monitoring Scheme, Urges Lawyers to Report Harassments

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The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has received approval for its proposals to set up a comprehensive court-monitoring scheme.

The scheme will enable the profession determine with accuracy and generate statistics identifying the primary causes of delay in court proceedings, and thus, make remedial actions more targeted and scientific.

The approval is contained in a communiqué signed by the Chairman, Judiciary Committee of the NBA, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), at the end of the Justice sector summit organised by NBA and the Justice Research Institute (JRI) in collaboration with the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Justice Reform Project (JRP).

The summit with the theme: ‘Devising Practical Solutions Towards Improved Performance, Enhanced Accountability and Independence in the Justice Sector’ was held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre Abuja on January 25, 2022.

According to the resolution, such would complement existing monitoring schemes like the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee created by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law and the Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) set up by the NJC.

“It approved a shift of orientation that would require the Judiciary to exercise the power already provided to it in almost all the rules of court to award costs on a full indemnity basis to compensate parties who are the victim of lack of preparedness on the part of opposing counsel or litigants and to incentivise counsel to shun dilatory tactics.

“It approved a shift of orientation that would require the Judiciary to use the case management powers already provided to it in almost all the rules of court to ensure that the admissibility of documents to be relied on at the hearing/trial of matters are dealt with either as a pre-hearing/pre-trial issue, or as a post-hearing/post-trial issue to be dealt with in closing submissions, so as to ensure speedy conclusion of matters,” the communiqué stated.

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According to the communiqué, the summit also approved the proposal for the enactment of provisions that would abolish the right to stay proceedings in matters pending interlocutory appeals, except in very limited and narrowly drawn circumstances.

In addition, it endorsed the NBA’s proposals for a constitutional amendment that would enable all the superior courts of coordinate jurisdiction created pursuant to section 6 of the Constitution to exercise a power of transfer to the appropriate court, whenever their subject matter jurisdiction is successfully challenged, rather than striking the matter out as well as a proposal restricting the right of appeal against such determination.

“Thus eliminating the phenomenon of lengthy litigation and appeals about which of the superior courts of record of coordinate jurisdiction is the appropriate court to hear a matter. It also endorsed the enhanced use of virtual hearings for the disposal of paper applications that do not involve oral witness evidence; the scheduling of cases for specific times and duration; and the elimination of the “court is not sitting” phenomenon to the barest minimum, the document stated.

Meanwhile, following the surge in cases of maltreatment of legal practitioners by security operatives whilst discharging official duties and obligations to clients, the NBA has urged lawyers in Nigeria to report incidents of harassment, intimidation by any of the security apparatuses to the newly inaugurated NBA–Securities Agencies Relations Committee (NBA-SARC) for immediate action.

The committee, which was inaugurated on January 7, 2022, is to work in liaison with all security agencies across the country to forestall the ugly trend.

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A statement by NBA Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka said the terms of reference of the NBA-SARC are to formulate policies to be implemented by the NBA (whether alone or in collaboration with other stakeholders) that will deal holistically with the risk posed to Nigerian lawyers by security agencies.

“Collaborate with the relevant security agencies to promote and advance a mutually beneficial relationship between the said agencies and lawyers in Nigeria.

“Develop and promote proper protocols for engagement with security agencies by lawyers, in the course of carrying out their professional duties.

“Work with the various branches of the NBA to achieve, at the branch level, objectives that are similar to those set out in these terms of reference,” he stated.

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