The Lagos State Judiciary may enter year 2019 on a controversial note as a former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, Mr Adesina Ogunlana, has filed a suit before the Ikeja High Court challenging the powers of the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Opeyemi Oke to increase filing fees with about 1000 percent.
The lawyers’ claim the Chief Judge with such rules as proposed in the High Court Civil Procedure Rule 2018, is a declaration of war against lawyers and will surely deny poor litigants’ access to justice.
The claimant of the suit is the former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, Mr Adesina Ogunlana who has lined up a team of lawyers to challenge the Chief Judge. They are Dare Akande, Tajudeen Ibrahim, Yinka Farounbi, Adejare Kembi, and Lateef Abdulsalam.
Joined with the Chief Judge as defendants is the Chief Registrar of the High Court.
The group filed a motion on notice, and originating summons at the registry of the Ikeja High Court on Thursday afternoon. The suit bears number Temp/41648/201. The motion on notice seeks an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from replacing or substituting the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012 with the proposed High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules2018 or any other Rules of the High Court of Lagos State, pending the determination of the suit.
In the originating summons, the lawyers seek the court to determine the following issues:
Whether in the exercise of powers of the first defendant to make Rules of Procedure for the High Court of Lagos State, the first defendant who is also sworn to uphold the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 may not exercise same in line with the provisions and intendment of the same 1999 constitution (as amended);
Whether in the exercise of the powers of the first defendant to make Rules of Procedures for the High Court of Lagos State in civil matters, the first defendant can make rules which by reason of its financial stipulates that have the effect of denying the ordinary citizens of Nigeria public, easy and ready access to the High Court of Lagos State for redress or otherwise reduce their greater accessibility to the High Court of Lagos State;
Whether the first defendant being the Chief Judicial Officer of Lagos State has any responsibility under the constitution of the Federal Republic, which constitution she sworn to uphold, put in place measures that guarantee easy and ready access to the High Court of the State to citizens and residents of Nigeria in Lagos State irrespective of their status, gender, class, financial standing, education, religion etc for judicial resolution of disputes;
Whether in the exercise of the powers of the first defendant to make Rules of Procedure for the High Court of Lagos State, the first defendant is at liberty to exclude consideration of the socio-economic realities of Nigeria in general and of Lagos State in particular considering the position of the judicial institution as a pillar of society for peace, security, and orderliness;
Whether in the exercise of her powers, the first defendant can contravene section 41 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to make rules discriminatory of the legal community and by the effect of such rules, declare a war on the trade or act in disdain of the trade of members of the legal community, to wit, legal practitioners;
Whether where in the exercise of the powers of the first defendant to make Rules of Procedure for the High Court, the first defendant rules imposing:
Minimum sum of N250,000:00 against counsel for unpreparedness to open trial for whatever reason
The increment of late filing fees from N200.00 to N1,000:00 per day
The upward review of general filing fees by 500-1000 per cent; such rules or provisions can be said to be in consonance with the constitution of the Federal Republic and guarantees easy and ready access to the High Court of the state,
The lawyers therefore seek the following reliefs from the court:
A declaration that the first defendant is duty bound in her official capacity to act in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended).
A declaration that the first defendant in making rules for the regulation and practice and procedures, and for such rules to be lawful, valid, and binding, such rules must be in conformity with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
A declaration that the proposed High Court that the proposed High of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rule 2018 as presently contemplated by the defendants to include 500-1000 percent increase in filing fees, upward review of late filing fees from N200.00 to N1000.00 per day, and imposition of fees of N100,000.00 or N250,000.00 cost personally against counsel, the legal representatives of litigants is oppressive and will serve to deny the claimant, his clients, and members of the litigating public easy access to the High Court of Lagos State and is as such improper, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.
The suit is yet to be assigned to a judge.