The 2011 Customary Court Law of Lagos State is to be amended to expand the scope of operations of customary court judges, the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade, has said.
Addressing new Presidents and Judges of Customary Courts during their swearing–in ceremony at the High Court, Ikeja, Lagos last week, Justice Atilade said officials of the court are already working with the Ministry of Justice to amend the law with a view to increasing the jurisdiction of the courts.
“In the past, the Customary Court Law had the jurisdiction to entertain cases involving tenement rates, sanitation issues, minor road traffic offences.
“With the 2011 Customary Court Law, the jurisdiction of the Customary Courts in civil matters as provided for in Section 25 of the Customary Court Law 2011 is limited to matrimonial matters, issues of inheritance not exceeding N500,000.00 and civil bye-laws. In criminal matters, the jurisdiction of the Customary Court is only limited to contempt in the face of the court as provided in Section 40 of the Law”, she noted.
The Chief Judge pointed out that the Local Councils and LCDAs are responsible for the salaries, allowances, provision of court rooms and maintenance of such court rooms.
In view of the responsibility of the Local Government Council and LCDAs, she said it would be necessary to increase the jurisdiction of these courts to accommodate minor offences such as minor traffic and sanitation offences which do not require custodial sentences .
She said that the state government and the judiciary are also looking at the establishment of a Customary Court of Appeal for the state, noting that at the moment, all appeals from the Customary Courts go to the Magistrate Courts.
Justice Atilade pointed out that with the pausity of Customary Court Judges in the state, it became expedient for the Judicial Service Commission to commence the process of recruiting persons of proven character and good standing in the society into the positions of Presidents and Members of the Customary Courts to replace such persons who had been disengaged by age, tenure or death.
According to her, there are 52 Customary Courts spread all over the state with each Local Government Council or LCDA having at least one court.
Justice Atilade congratulated all the newly appointed Presidents and members of the Customary Courts as Customary Court Judges of Lagos State.
The Chief Judge admonished the new appointees to be diligent , fair
and impartial, stressing that the attributes of a judge include but not limited to humility, impartiality ,knowledge of the customs of the land and being a good listener .
“A Judge must be above board whether in court or out of court .Above all you must always bear in mind that in all you do, there is an ultimate Judge”, she stated.