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Agbakoba bemoans poor case management system in Nigeria’s courts

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja
15 November 2022   |   2:31 am
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, has bemoaned Nigeria’s sluggish case management procedure, which he described as antiquated and a deliberate culture sustained by lawyers to exploit litigants.

Olisa Agbakoba

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, has bemoaned Nigeria’s sluggish case management procedure, which he described as antiquated and a deliberate culture sustained by lawyers to exploit litigants.

The lawyer, who was a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), stated that case management in courts ought to be treated with a more serious-minded approach than the way it is handled, currently.

In a statement by the lawyer, he said: “Nigeria’s court procedural landscape is sluggish and inefficient and needs reform.” He blamed the bar and the bench for colluding to unjustly rip litigant by unduly delaying the speedy dispensation of justice in Nigeria.

Agbakoba said: “The adjournment culture has flourished – a conspiracy between bench and bar to deprive paying clients of their day in court. Lawyers can argue for an hour over a date-fixture, while the judge, apparently entranced, watched in silent disdain.

“It is only in the business of law that people go to work just to argue about when to begin scratching the work. They call it ‘mention’. ‘The matter is for mention’. If your doctor did that, you would sue for medical malpractice!” the senior advocate said.

The SAN added, “the adjournment culture is so deeply entrenched that even good lawyers go to court expecting an adjournment. Judges are almost always willing to oblige. Often, when a case is called up, neither bar nor bench is prepared to proceed. Counsel is often unprepared: the Judge has not read the file.”

This, the lawyer said, is not a realistic model of managing a modern court. He explained that courts cannot continue to be an all-comers’ dispute-resolution stadium.

“Its business model must be re-defined so that the court transforms into a dispute-resolution engine room with a mind of its own and freedom of choice about which disputes it can or should take.

“We must erect a firewall against the halls of justice to protect the courts against viral abuse. Frivolous, unnecessary, or vexatious claims are viruses in the bloodstream of our judicature,” he said.

Agbakoba argued that when a court admits a case, it should decide how much of its resources to devote to that case. He, therefore, suggested radical reform in Nigeria’s civil procedure system. His words: “That emphasis is on case management.

Other jurisdictions have understood the transformative value of case management in making litigation cheaper, quicker, smoother, more efficient and more effective.”

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