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Friday 11 December 2020

Court of Appeal president decries lawyers’ role in frivolous applications

Court of Appeal president decries lawyers’ role in frivolous applications

The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, on Friday decried the attitude of some lawyers in filing frivolous applications.

She made the remark while delivering her speech at the closing ceremony of the First Working/Retreat and Annual Conference of the Justices of the Court of Appeal held in Lagos.

Dongban-Mensem said that such antics by members of the Bar would not augur well for justice delivery and therefore, should be stopped.

The retreat was themed: “Court of Appeal: Challenges and The Way Forward’’.

According to Dongban-Mensem, out of 345 appeals comprising of 289 commercial appeals, 10 human rights appeals and 46 criminal appeals scheduled for hearing during the four-day retreat, 165 appeals were heard and judgment reserved.

She said, “We were particularly keen to hear commercial appeals, because of the potential multiplier effect that these cases have in strengthening the wider economy and creating employment for the youth.

“In spite of best intentions, it is sad to see many lawyers belatedly writing letters of adjournment and other frivolous requests.

“Some counsel, after being served hearing notices and upon being invited to reconcile their files by the litigation department, suddenly woke up to the need to file application to regularise those processes.

“Others sought to file joinders in what were calculated as attempts to stall the hearing of several appeals.

“Indeed, we were forced to hear 120 motions for regularisation of processes in order to ensure that appeals were ready for determination.’’

“Though we do not intend to mention the names of the chambers of these lawyers, one must warn that such antics by members of the Bar will not augur well for justice delivery and must be stopped,” she warned.

Dongban-Mensem, however, said that in spite of these challenges, efforts at decongesting the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, was successful.

“The 23 panels of the court cumulatively heard and reserved a total of 165 appeals this week, which was no mean feat,” she said.

She said that the use of special panel undoubtedly had come to stay, saying that it would be utilised in future.

Dongban-Mensem also called on the members of the Bar to be active in taking advantage of these opportunities to hear their cases expeditiously, thereby help the entire justice system to move forward as desired.

She said that the court would not rest on its laurels but would remain committed to further interventions that would continue to decongest the courts’ dockets to ensure quick justice delivery.

In his remark, the President of Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, assured the Court of Appeal president that NBA would not be a cause of frustration to justice delivery.

Akpata said that NBA would work closely with the Bench to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.

He called for improvement of courts’ facilities and better condition of service for court workers.

Also, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, said the timing of the retreat was apt, especially with the avalanche of challenges, including COVID-19 pandemic.

The chief justice was represented by Justice Lawal Garba, a Supreme Court Justice.

Muhammad noted that people’s life style and general ways of doing things had been inconveniently altered, saying it might remain for as long as the pandemic subsisted.

“I may have to succinctly refresh our memories with the excruciating impact of the pandemic on both the judicial officers and workers alike.

“We directed all Heads of Courts to suspend all forms of physical court sittings with the aim of freeing our courtrooms from the unsparing coronavirus pandemic.

“We were able to enthrone a feasible roadmap that eventually evolved robust information technology architecture for the nation’s judiciary.

“Those guidelines were subsequently adopted by some states High Courts and the National Industrial Court.

“Today, as it were, we have now adopted a novel life style that has, irrespective of its inconveniencing nature, become the approved standard way that we have to live, as long as coronavirus remains with us,” he said.

The chief justice said this has inevitably brought the judicial system to the domain of information technology.

Muhammad said that virtual court sitting, through Zoom, was no longer strange, as it was gradually becoming an integral part of interactions across the globe.

“With time, every court in Nigeria will be fully automated to enhance seamless virtual sittings in order to decongest the courtrooms.

“The pace has to be gradual, while we perfect the inherent technicalities to avoid any hitches that may encumber success,” he said.

He urged the justices to raise the ante, rejig their attitude and commitment to work with a view to giving the best to the judiciary and the nation at large.

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