LAWYERS4CHANGE

Monday, November 7, 2011

FEDERAL HIGH COURT IKEJA: ROTTEN REGISTRY SPOILS FINE COURT

In June 2009, the Federal High Court, Ikeja Division, Lagos State was created. It was a development much welcomed by legal practitioners and litigants alike in Lagos State, especially those residing in Mainland Lagos.



Before 2009, all matters for the Federal High Court in Lagos State were heard and determined at Ikoyi on the Lagos Island, a situation mainland lawyers and litigants found irksome.


The creation of the Ikeja Division was with the active support of the Lagos State government which provided the land for the court and actually funded the building. The court room and her appurtenances including the Judge’s Chambers and the administrative section is a bungalow; simple but elegant. The inside of the court house is particularly attractive, cool, neat and well lit, having an ambience that stimulates good delivery from lawyers.


Happily the master of the court, the presiding judge, Honourable Justice Stephen Jonah Adah is an asset on the Bench therein. Calm, meticulous and sound, many lawyers who have appeared before him hold him in high esteem.


However the paradise of the Federal High Court Ikeja has an incubus, residing there and her ointment is sullied by the revolting presence of a dead fly floating in it.


The great minus of the otherwise beautiful court is her registry and the Bailiff Section. Our investigations show that as things stand, it would be foolhardy for any lawyer seeking urgent reliefs for his client, to approach the FHC Ikeja for succor. This is because of a combination of a tardy, unreasonable, and inefficient registry and an extortionate, bribe-mad bailiff section that would ensure that adjudication of matters by the judge do not start quickly.


There have been many instances when getting processes filed in the registry become simply hellish. Lawyers or their litigation clerks have been known to visit the court’s registry many times just for their papers to be ‘initialed’ as they are told that the officers to do the initialing “is not on seat.” At times litigation clerks who come to file papers have been rebuffed and told to bring their principals to do the filing.


After scaling the big hurdle of filing processes at the Registry, the lawyer or clerk now faces the equally daunting trouble of dealing with the messengers of the court (bailiffs) who however love demanding and collecting ransome fit for kings in the name of effecting service of processes.


Worse, these shameless court officials demand gratification to do their official jobs as a matter of right, while the lawyers are reduced to begging or negotiating for a reduction in ‘bailiff tariff.’


Really incredible things happen at the FHC Ikeja. Sometimes filed processes either get “temporarily lost” sometimes for weeks or sometimes it takes the processes several days to travel from the Registry (less than twenty meters away) to the court, with the effect that hearing in cases are stalled as the necessary papers already filed by counsel days, even weeks before, are not found in case files in court.


In a chat with this reporter over all the misdeeds of the court officials, the most senior administrative staff, Mrs. N. Omotosho, the Deputy Chief Registrar, admitted to the reality of the very poor attitude of her subordinates whom she accused of being unrepentantly unprofessional in their attitude and who are money mongers.


She however promised that the situation would soon change as the presiding judge had determined to ensure the removal of any staff found guilty of misconduct.

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