The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade, has hinted on the possibility of amending the 2011 Customary Court Law of the state so as to expand the scope of operations of customary court judges.
He made this known while addressing the new presidents and judges of customary courts during their swearing-in ceremony in Lagos.
Justice Atilade said officials of the court were already working with the ministry of justice to amend the law with a view to increasing the jurisdiction of the courts.
She said: “In the past, the customary court of law had the jurisdiction to entertain cases involving tenement rates, sanitation issues, and 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.”
The chief judge pointed out that the local councils and local councils’ development areas (LCDAs) were responsible for the salaries, allowances, provision of court rooms and maintenance of such court rooms.
“In view of the responsibility on the local government council and LCDAs, 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 was considering the establishment of a customary court of appeal for the state, adding that at the moment, all appeals from the customary courts go to the magistrate courts.
Justice Atilade pointed out that with the paucity of customary court judges in the state, it became expedient for the Judicial Service Commission to recruit persons of proven character and good standing in the society into the positions of presidents and members of the customary courts to replace persons disengaged due to age, tenure or death.
According to her, there were 52 customary courts in the state, with each local government council or LCDA having, at least, one court.
She admonished the newly appointed persons to be diligent, fair and impartial, stressing that the attributes of a judge included, but not limited to humility, impartiality, knowledge of the customs of the land and being a good listener.