Mr. Paschal C. Ugwuanyi, Chairman of All Chairmen, NBA Anambra, has said the statement allegedly circulated by Kingsley Awuka Esq., a member of NBA Nnewi branch, claiming that the agitation of the Chairman and other Chairmen is targeted on the newly appointed DCRs (Evaluation), is unfair to the leadership of the NBA.
According to him, their position has always been that the provisions of Order 4 of the High Court Rules, be further discussed and simplified for easy understanding and application. Describing the post as unfortunate, he added that there are other provisions of the new High Court Rules which they have continued to maintain that they need to review. He, therefore, asked if anybody would suffer if the Rules are simplified.
”Our attention has been drawn to the post being unfortunately circulated by Kingsley Awuka Esq, a member of NBA Nnewi branch, and we find it very pertinent to react to it in order to put the record straight. First and foremost, it is quite unfortunate that Mr. Awuka in his writeup or post was trying to insinuate that the leadership of NBA, Anambra state, in our agitation for the review of the new high court Rules is targeted on the newly appointed DCRs (Evaluation). I must have to state here that Mr. Awuka by his insinuations is very unfair to the leadership of NBA, Anambra state.
”We challenge Mr. Awuka to show us where we have ever suggested that Order 4 of the High Court Rules should be expunged from the Rules. Our position has always been that the provisions of Order 4 the High court Rules should be further discussed and simplified for easy understanding and application. We here then, ask, what would any body suffer if the provisions of Order 4 of the High court Rules are simplified for easy understanding and application? Absolutely nothing,” he said.
Speaking further, he said that contrary to Mr Awuka’s misguided view, apart from the said Order 4 of the High (Court Procedure) Rules, there are other provisions of the new High court Rules which they have continued to maintain that they need to be reviewed, stressing that, they have properly identified the said provisions in the proposals they sent to the Acting Chief Judge of Anambra state as requested from them.
”The schedules of filing fees in the High Court just like the Magistrate’s Court were astronomically increased in some provisions of the new Rules especially as it affects obtaining probate and letters of administration. The filing fees in obtaining probate and /or letters of administration were increased by over 1000% by the new High Court Rules.
”Going by the new High Court Rules, widows can now hardly process letters of administration of their late husband’s estates due to exorbitant filing fees they are now required to pay under the new high court Rules. The same high filing fees apply to filing processes for probate. Take for instance, all processes which by the old High court Rules were charged 50 naira were increased to 1000 naira by the new High court Rules, while all processes charged 1000 naira in the old High court Rules are hiked to 5000 naira in the new High Court Rules. Is it not over 1000% increase? Is it fair?,” he asked
He also said there was a three days seminars before the coming into effect of the court Rules (High court & Magistrate’s court), adding that, any body who attended the seminars will agree with him that the time was not enough to fully discuss all the provisions of the new Court Rules.
”Yes, there was a three days seminars before the coming into effect of the Court Rules (High Court & Magistrate’s Court). Any body who attended the seminars will agree with me that the time was not enough to fully discuss all the provisions of the new Court Rules. For instance, issues pertaining to increase in filing fees were never discussed during the seminars.
”Mr. Awuka can tell us when issues pertaining to increase in filing fees were discussed and his contribution to that effect. We have submitted our proposals to the Acting Chief Judge of Anambra state and we believe that in no distant time he will listen to the cries of poor masses.”
He finally asked members of the legal community to discountenance Mr Awuka’s post which according to him, is not only self- serving, but highly malicious.
See below the position of Kingsley Awuka Esq:
AGITATION AGAINST THE ANAMBRA 2019 HIGH COURT RULES: WHAT EXACTLY ARE WE FIGHTING AGAINST?
I have just read a circular signed by the Chief Registrar of the High Court of Anambra State calling for memoranda for the review or amendment of the 2019 High Court Rules of Anambra State. I have also read a follow-up note from the Chairman of Committee of Chairmen of Branches of NBA in Anambra State urging members to submit memoranda for the amendment of the Rules. The Chairman said that they had urged the Ag CJ to suspend the Rule pending the outcome of the amendment.
I feel compelled to ask: what areas of the rules are we particularly required to submit memoranda and suggestions on for the purposes of the amendment? Is it the new High Court Rules or the Magistrate Court Rules?
What aspects of the Rules are we agitating against?
To me, the new Magistrate Court Rules is what requires drastic attention regarding various fees prescribed therein.
I have taken my time to look at the Schedule of filing and other fees prescribed in the 2019 High Court Rules. There is an increase from N7500 to N10000 for filing of claim for specified sum of N5,000,000 and above, a difference of N2,500. Other fees were also slightly increased from 500 to 1000; 1000 to 2000 etc. Some fees remained the same. I do not think that those slight increases in the High Court Rules should generate this heat.
Apart from the fee schedule, the only other thing new in the new High Court Rules is Order 4 which has created among others the ACR Evaluation and the Anambra Multi-Door Courts. What is wrong with this new and commendable innovation please?
Sometimes ago, the immediate past CJ advertised for the appointment of DCR Evaluation. He restricted the Application to MAGISTRATES who were 10 years post call and above. Only very few Magistrates applied. Others ignored the advertisement and refused to apply. The Applications and recruitment process followed strictly the laid down procedure of the State Judicial Service Commission. After the appointment and swearing in of the Magistrates that were successful, other senior magistrates suddenly woke up from their slumber and started complaining that most of the Magistrates appointed as DCR Evaluation were their juniors. And this is how the agitation for the review of the New High Court Rules started. The target of the agitation is to expunge order 4 of the Rules that created DCR Evaluation! Some have even asked that the already sworn in DCRs should be sent back to their magisterial positions.
I remember that for three days, our courts were shut down when the immediate past CJ called for stake-holders’ summit on the final review of the New High Court Rules. This present regime of NBA Chairmen and Secretaries were already in power then. They were invited and they attended and participated in Summit that eventually gave a nod of approval of the new High Court Rules. Do we take it that they did not notice those areas they are now agitating against? Immediately after the voluntary retirement of the immediate past CJ, the Ag CJ suspended the new Rules and issued some Practice Directions. Our leaders (Chairmen and Secretaries) did not use the opportunity to iron out the grey areas of the Rules. After the new Rules was re-enacted, their agitation commenced with added vigour.
I have spoken to some notable members of the Committee that reviewed the Rules. What I gathered was that the new Magistrate Court Rules is outrageous in terms of new fees prescribed therein.
A blanket reference to the “Court Rules” is not appropriate for a call for memoranda.
Which areas are the NBA not comfortable with and why? The NBA agitation initially attacked the prescribed fees, but I doubt now whether they are sticking to change of regime of fees alone. I remember urging the NBA not to relent in pressing for the change in fees by all means including calling for boycott of court. Now, I think we need to be informed in clear terms what NBA is now fighting against in the New High Court Rules.
I will appeal to the Chairman of Chairmen, who incidentally is our Branch Chairman to be circumspect in this struggle. Let us not oppress people while appearing as if we are fighting the course of people. This was how the Customary Court of Appeal was scrapped, and the rest has now become history!
I will stop here for now.
Kingsley Awuka Esq.