By Olanrewaju Adesanya
Lawyers and notable members of the Ikeja branch of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)have faulted the proposed Lagos High court fees, on account that the regime already came into force three years ago without the statutory concurrence with the state legislature.
The Chairman of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Prince Dele Oloke made this disclosure at a stakeholders parley on High Court of Lagos Fees (Rules) 2018,organized by the House of Assembly committee on Judiciary Human Rights,Public Petitions and LASIEC Matters chaired by Hon. Tunde Buraimoh.
According to Oloke , it may not be right to say that 2001 was the last time fees will be reviewed,recently the court unilaterally did,it means the fees had been paid by the public since 2016 without recourse to the assembly.
“For us, if fees have been taken without the concurrence of the house of assembly in spite of the instance of the extant law on regulations in Lagos State it speaks volumes.
“If we say we pass these suggested fees now into law, are we going to ask the judiciary to return the money collected from litigants prior to now?
“The Ikeja NBA will not support this new regime of fees,as they have run this particular fees for 3 years without concurrence to legislature.
“Justice must not be for sale when poor people can’t access justice due to exorbitant fees then crisis sets in.
Oloke added that when people fail to appreciate the social milieu in which they operate they are indirectly courting trouble.
He also raised the fear that when land owners,whose titles had been usurped one way or the other finds access to justice too far away due to outrageous court fees,they may resort to self help,like going diabolical or engaging land grabbers to retrieve their properties from the alleged usurpers.
In his opinion, Mr. Tope Alabi a legal practitioner ,who represents Barr. Femi Falana SAN at the forum said that the proposed court fees is outrageous, irrational and if allowed to go would affect dispensation of quality justice.
Alabi cited the ill in the executive allegedly asking the altar of justice to start generating revenues, this he stated would lead to miscarriage of justice system and putting burden on the already suffering masses seeking justice.
“I notice 1000 per cent increment in the review. We need to look at it. High Court in Lagos is nearer to the people more than others.
“Lagos state can still generate billions in other places, leave judiciary alone, if the review is carried out, it will be a clog in the wheel of dispensing quality justice,’’ he said.
Alabi also raised eyebrows that the public had already being compelled to pay the proposed fees the bill was seeking to authorise,since three years ago.
In a defensive response, the Chief Registrar of High Court of Lagos State, Mrs.Taiwo Olatokun said that the fees were really not increased as claimed by the two lawyers and that the new fees being proposed were not exorbitant.
Olatokun said those increases were to discourage speculative and frivolous claims by some litigants who most times come up with bogus figures as claims.
“These increment are not unreasonable, they are in line with the realities,’’ she said.
The registrar noted that those who could not meet the cost of justice had been taken care of under the High Court Rules order 51, stressing that the reviewed fees were not exorbitant.
Earlier, Braimoh, the Chairman of the House Committee who is also a lawyer hinted the regulations would in so many ways be advantageous to the state and would enhance seamless administration of justice.
Braimoh, who noted that the bill for the review of fees chargeable in the high court was sent by the judiciary, said that House would not in
any way succumb to any moves to commercialize justice.
“Justice is not for sale but in the course of dispensing justice,where must be some maintenance costs that are incidental to the
discharge of the functions of the judiciary.
“Wants and needs are two different things,the needs are what you need to do to keep your system running,while want is what you want to make do with so we would grant the judiciary their needs but not their wants. They must get some things because they need to run.
“We will not be tempted,we will not be swayed,confused or convinced to supporting any moves,any inclination to kind of put justice for sale.
“The judiciary is providing some services and there is a need for them to render those services,you don’t expect people to pay for that service really but at least people should be contributory to the dispensation of those services.
“So that we would know those who are serious,it is like a subsidized services so people should be able to pay their part of the subsidy.”Braimoh said.
Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, the Majority Leader of the House while giving an overview of the bill said that it seeks to prescribe fees to be used in
the Lagos State High Court as well as repealing the extant High Court (fees) Rules, 2001.
According to Agunbiade, the bill has 30 sections and two schedules and that the 30 sections provide alterations to what was on ground.
The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon.Mudashiru Obasa, who represented by his deputy, Mr Waaiu Eshinlokun-Sanni,while delivering his opening remarks emphasized the poise of the House do the very best for the state.
“Judiciary must survive. There must be justice and government must be
humane in all issues as it affects the populace, we will look at all
these regime of fees.
“I assure you that the committee would do a lot on this to ensure that justice is affordable and accessible. This house will do the needful and justice to this regime of fees,’’ the speaker said.
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