By Mustapha Ogunsakin
Stakeholders in Lagos State Judiciary will meet on July 11, 2023 to determine filing and other fees attached to processes in all courts in Lagos State. The Chief Judge of the State, Justice Kazeem Alogba made this known to www.thegavel.com.ng recently.
The stakeholders according to the Chief Judge include the Lagos, Ikeja, Ikorodu, and Badagry branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and the top hierarchy of the State Judiciary. The aim is to discuss and agree on the cost of filing fees in Lagos courts. After agreement, the resolution will be tendered before the Lagos House of Assembly for ratification and approval before it becomes law.
Justice Alogba made this disclosure while responding to concerns raised by lawyers in the state on astronomical filing fees collected at the registries, particularly, Magistrate Court registries.
A lawyer on the platform, ‘Law and Society Forum’, (name withheld) had raised the issue and asked the NBA as a body to act on it.
The lawyer said: “We have observed that excess charges were introduced for the magistrate court which is to the knowledge of the NBA and the committee and this is unacceptable and there is a need for the charges to be reviewed”.
He stated that the judiciary has not come with a circular informing the general public of an upward review in filing fees but that of the magistrate courts have been reviewed with charges. According to him, a reply on point of law which costs N100 at the High court now costs N900 at the magistrate court with the following breakdown (Reply N100; Convenient fee N500; Sealing Order N300). “We have to ask the question; why should I pay an extra N800 for something of N100)? What is the purpose of the SEALING ORDER charged on it? Why would the convenience fee for a process of N100 be N500 and why is the convenience fee static?
He asked further: “Why would a motion; affidavit and written address which costs N600 at the High Court be N1650 at the Magistrate Court? Why is it that we pay N300 on a seal whose serial number is static and the coding does not differ from others? Why would an Affidavit to show cause which ordinarily is N550 at the High Court goes for N800? What is the rationale behind these excess charges or should I say overcharging and why is the scale at the magistrate court different from the high court?
What is the rationale behind this excess charge placed on all lawyers filing at the Magistrate court? Why is it that it takes days for processes to be stamped and commissioned at the magistrate court?
We call the process E-Filing but it is actually Stress-Filing. We want to embrace the e-filing but the Manual filing is even faster than this e-filing which has forced counsel to take several adjournments due to the lackadaisical attitude of the official of the court you are saddled to act on processes;
We also observe from our findings that the lawyers are the ones paying for the maintenance of the site while the judiciary only confirms payment on all transaction/assessment processes without more. We believe the judiciary is not NNPC that increased the pump price to N488 per liter while the records show that the pump price should be lesser but the rationale behind the excess is still unknown and nobody is asking. How would I want to buy medication of N100 and I am told to pay charges of N800 for N100 medication? This is wrong and it doesn’t add up as the same look tainted.
While we are aware that the NBA and the excos/ NBA set up committee were involved in this process, What is the understanding behind this fees?, he asked.
Gavel International sought and got the reactions of Justice Alogba to the issues. He said that despite the fact that the judiciary is a service, charges and costs are not expected to be static when other costs within the society are rising astronomically. He however said that work is ongoing on the issue and that it would soon be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. “The bottom line is that we’re working on it; we’re holding meetings with the gamut of the NBA leadership, and whatever we agree on would be looked into by the House of Assembly;
We don’t want to be arbitrary by putting anything before the House(of Assembly) on our own. In fact, I have also told them that instead of coming branch by branch, let all branches of Lagos State come at once, and they have taken my advice. They have even written to me and I’ve given them a date, 11th of July, when we would have the meeting and come to an agreement. Then we would present it before the House of Assembly to give legality to our agreement”, Justice Alogba concluded.
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