For quite a while, there have been some kinds of disappointments in the conducts of some of the Federal Capital Territory-Abuja’s-herein after referred to as FCT- High Court’s staff, a situation which one as a legal practitioner cannot shy away from complaining about, because, it is still this same lawyer who bears the consequences especially as it relates to his professional roles to his clients, who in many times, do not really understand that some of the disappointments that their lawyer is being confronted with are not of his fault rather, the conducts of some of the court’s staff that are the cause. This paper is aimed at humbly drawing the attention of the Honourable, the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court to amend those observed complaints in this paper.
First and foremost, there is no need to cite references as to the jurisdictional and controlling powers of the Hounourable, the Chief Judge of the FCT, over all courts in the FCT Judicial Divisions.
Furthermore, it is regrettable to note the rate at which some of the judicial divisions of the FCT High Courts have been performing below expectation. For instance, the numbers of staff in those courts are very few compared to the responsibilities upon them to discharge, thereby making some of the tasks which involve the public especially those that involve lawyers and their litigants to be carried out recklessly.
For further instance, some of them have one or two persons as registrars to attend to all cases or matters filed in the judicial division, especially in those courts that are may be just one court sitting at a location. Processes are filed by many lawyers and litigants but the staff to attend to them are very few compared to the functions. One other things that worsen the situation is in term of issuance and service of processes by the Court’s Bailiff, in which case, the Rules of the Court limits the time for doing and or performing some of those acts expected by any of the parties to a suit in the court. However, disappointingly, the court’s officials at some of those courts give unnecessary excuses for their failure to perform some of those functions on time, thereby running the applicant to run out of time. Unfortunately, those of us who are lawyers will be the one to bear the consequences of those failures because, when a client pays for a particular services to be carried out, and at several occasions such functions are not carried out, he starts to query and feel uncomfortable whereas, notwithstanding a lawyer’s explanation to some of those court’s officials, they still disregard those explanations and only understand to do those things in their own ways.
More so, everyone wants to be ‘oga madam’, and no one would like to be identified as a ‘clerk’ or ‘bailiff’., which is the nature of his employment So, as a result, processes that require issuance are not issued on time, processes that are supposed to be served on time are delayed by the bailiff who might be the only one to serve processes in that particular court or just two of them, among other failures. This is why the writer of this paper calls on the Honourable, the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, most humbly, to intervene and prevail upon the situation, as lawyers are being presented by such failures as being incompetent in the eyes of the clients.
Furthermore, the writer of this paper suggests most humbly, that enough courts staff should be engaged and posted to those judicial divisions of the court. For instance, it is observed that there is need for more manpower in the Kubwa FCT High Court of the Bwari Judicial Division. It is also observed by the writer of this paper that ineffective monitoring of staff has made some of those court’s staff to misbehave even to lawyers. The torturing experiences for a lawyer to succeed in passing through the hurdles or stress of fulfilling his professional obligations in this court are very great. Also, the charges or costs charged by some of those Bailiff who see themselves as registrars in themselves, is another challenge. The writer of this paper has observed that the charge demanded by the female bailiff in the Kubwa High Court of the Bwari Judicial Division of the High Court is unregulated. For instance, she had of recent requested the sum of N7,000 from the writer of this paper just to serve a process within the same Kubwa, Byazhin Layout of Chikakore, Kubwa, FCT. For anyone who knows the location of the Court and that of the place to effect service, one would understand that it is at a very close distance and that such a demand is very high and exploitative. That day, it took the intervention of the court’s Registrar before she could gruntingly accept the sum of N3,000.
The most shocking and disappointing part of the issue is her rude and bossy manner of approach, even to lawyers. In fact, she is just without caution. Also, at another occasion, specifically on the 10th day of April, 2018, the writer of this paper had some processes he had filed and brought same to the court for service at Jabi, FCT-Abuja. This same woman confidently demanded for the sum of N10,000 for her to serve the process at the Jabi, FCT-Abuja. It took the intervention of the court’s Registrar too before the writer of this paper could offer the sum of N4,000 for her to serve. In fact, when the writer of this paper was even begging for the reduction in the charge, considering the financial incapability of the client, she remarked very embarrassingly, disrespectfully and without caution, that if the writer of this paper would not pay the said sum of money, then, he should go and effect the service by himself. Without mentioning her name, lawyers who are used to that court would have known the person in question. We as lawyers are treated with lack of respect! The manner at which some of those court’s staff behave is as if you lawyers, even though you are an officer of the court, are nothing. The writer of this paper therefore calls on the Honourable, the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, most humbly, to call this woman to order as well as other necessary persons. More so, the writer of this paper is not among those who fears to expose corrupt practices by courts’ officers even if it is bitter to do so. Though, it is observed by the writer of this paper that the situation could have improved but for the fact that only few lawyers would take a bold step and expose such exploitation and wrong doings. What is observed is that some of them have taken this issue of service as a form of money making and a business on its own, the notion which must be corrected.
Furthermore, the writer of this paper thereby calls on the Honourable, the Chief Judge of the FCT-High Court to put in place adequate and effective monitoring mechanism in checkmating any abuse of office and unguarded conducts by some of those courts’ officials including the staff-woman complained about in this paper. In actual sense, some of those courts’ officials over-do leading to abuse of public office. Also, it is recommended that service fees should be monitored for effective discharge of functions but fixed charges should not be high putting into consideration, the financial incapability of majority of the parties to the suits and that some of the lawyers are struggling despite the economic challenges in the country to sponsor some of their clients’ cases with their personal moneys and or with low pay. Also, lawyers and litigants are encouraged to build the self-confidence in themselves by exposing some of these unwanted characters that have the tendency of tarnishing the image of the courts’ system and the judiciary as a whole. It is also suggested that the Honourable, the Chief Judge of the FCT should direct and mandate all court’s staff to always wear and display their identity as to official duty so that a ‘clerk’ is identified as he is in the services and a ‘bailiff’ or a ‘registrar’ is also respectively identified as such.
Finally, it is hoped that the Honourable, the Chief Judge of the FCT would take necessary but immediate actions on those observations and recommendations made by the writer of this paper as made above and that all courts’ staff would be warned to refrain from unlawful acts and abuse of public office. This, it is believed, would have a very long way in improving the courts’ system and the judiciary as a whole.