Congestion: Lagos Judiciary Launches Backlog Elimination Programme

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By  MATTHEW  UKACHUNWA , Lagos

Lagos State Judiciary has organized Backlog Elimination Programme (BEP) Principles and Decongestion Stakeholders’ Forum.

At the event which took place in the foyer of Lagos State High Court, Igbosere, Lagos Island on Tuesday, 15th May, 2018, legal professionals discussed the modalities for expeditious disposal of old cases.

Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, provided insight into the purpose of BEP.  “We set up a Backlog Elimination Programme whereby cases of five years to 20 years and above have been targeted for expeditious disposal,” she clarified.

The chief judge explained that a committee was set up to prepare a Decongestion Practice Direction as well as detailed Pre-Action Protocols that is simultaneously targeting future recongestion.

At the stakeholders’ forum the chief judge re-emphasized her determination to fight corruption in the judiciary.

“I advise everybody to fight corruption,” Oke stressed, and said that her administration is poised towards ensuring “zero tolerance to corruption.”

She warned that she does not want people to be writing anonymous letters of complaints and petitions to her office as a strategy for fighting corruption.

The chief law officer told those who want to fight corruption to be brave and come up with facts and convincing evidence of their claims.

Participants who spoke during an interactive session on the occasion raised among others, issues pertaining to the relationship between the Bar and the Bench.  They said it is a waste of time expecting good behaviour from the Bar if the Bench is not ready to uphold same.

They also called for the elimination of excuses that cause the delay of cases in courts.

For example, Dele Adesina said that clamouring for change of attitude from the Bar has to be balanced by an expected change of attitude from the Bench.

He observed that the law is no longer interested in punishment, but in compensation.  He further called for solutions to delays and congestion of the courts.

Adesina Ademola Ogunlana was worried that judges are overworked .  He suggested that lawyers should be made more efficient, and that the judiciary as a whole has to be refined , adding that training in the judicial sector requires intensified focus.

Other speakers were at one that stay of execution and stay of proceedings should be de-emphasized, stressing that the way and manner of serving of processes have to be looked into seriously.  Processes, in their view, have to be served independent of counsel.

The importance and benefits of taking care of judicial support staff was emphasized, because “judges cannot work in isolation; they need the support staff to work properly,” a contributor asserted.  He pointed out that advanced countries have workable judicial systems in place, and therefore, urged the judiciary in Nigeria to emulate such developments and innovations.

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