By: Miracle Akusobi, Esq
A filing fee is the amount of money a party in litigation must pay to the court to begin a case. The amount of money a party pays depends on the court and the nature of case.
In a suit involving monetary claims, filing fees are so expensive that it is often impossible for majority of Nigerians to have access to the courts. The high cost has made so many Nigerians to abandon their fairest rights due to poverty and economic hardship. It has abated the spirit of litigation, and has made so many Nigerians ignorant and rapacious to access justice and fair hearing.
High cost of filing is a denial of citizens right to fair hearing and right of access to court. Under the current Rules of various courts, filing fees payable by the Claimant/Plaintiff in monetary claims are assessed by percentage. For a claim of Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira, the Claimant/Plaintiff is expected to pay over One Hundred and Fifty thousand Naira. In a claim of Ten Million Naira, the Claimant/Plaintiff may pay Fifty or One Hundred thousand Naira only. Where a writ of summons contains Five different monetary claims, the Claimant/Plaintiff would be force to pay percentage of each of the claims. The Claimant will also pay filing fees for statement of claim, written depositions, Exhibits, and among others. This is a well known fact that runs contrary to constitutional provision especially where an ordinary Nigerian can hardly afford such money as a sine qua non for having access to Justice.
A Claimant who affords to pay filing filing fees would also pay other fees. To have his processes served on the other party, the Claimant has to mobilize and re-imbure the sheriff to serve same. During proceedings, payments are made for serving hearing notices, subpoenaing a witness and among others. These dilatory and expensive filings increase the chances of the rich, and aggravate the misery of the poor to approach the court. This creates inequality between the wealthy litigant and the under-resourced litigant.
The cost of filing fess in monetary claims is the “grand instrument of mischief in litigation”. These high costs are distractions and lost of confidence to most Nigerians in the pursuit of their fairest right to justice.
If Courts were created for a common man to approach it unhindered and devoid of barriers, why making it hard for poor litigants to approach it? In the garden of Eden, “even God himself did not request for anything before he called Adam to make his case before him”. I wish to state that even though we live in a modern society, It still makes mockery of Nigerian Judicial system and Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As amended) for a Claimant to pay over Three Hundred Thousand Naira for filing fees, at the end of the proceedings, his monetary claims are thrown out from judicial window. If the Claimant is allowed to pay less, whether he wins or loses becomes his cross to carry afterwards. The government should avoid percentage in filing monetary claims. If Mr. A is claiming Twenty million naira indebted to him by Mr. B and the government takes Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only for filing fees, if the Claimant loses in court, he has lost Twenty Million, Two hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira.
In various states, the cost of filing court processes was doubled by the government without a substantial reason. To make matter worse, the government revenues from courts are not utilized in restructuring courts and judicial system. Most of the court rooms in Nigeria are in dilapidated and decayed condition. Some courts cannot contain Lawyers and Litigants, most courts are known for bad seats, No fan, No air conditioner and among others, despite Millions of Naira that pumps to the government’s account everyday, from filing fees.
By: Miracle Akusobi, Esq., email@example.com
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