The Lagos State Judiciary through its nonchalance and inadequate speed to give ears to the yearnings of the people is constructively making access to a court near impossible. There are wicked people in the judiciary who do not want us to have an effective justice system. But time will tell. 

FIRST OBSERVATION: What we have now is not e-filing. What we have is an e-delay.

The e-filing system should be a process where you do not have to be physical in court before you could do anything. Save for depositions which could also be done before any notary public or authorised person. 

The idea of coming to court registry to file a process, access the process, make payment, and being referred to the e-delay section, sorry e-filing section for you to scan, make another round of payment, and then a tag is placed on the process before you now take it back for stamping and onward dropping at the record section is nothing but a total waste of time and resource which is a clog to the wheels of justice. 

What we have now is just an electronic process to save the processes to the cloud. This can be done in the alternative by making sure extra copies are filed for the consumption of those employed to scan into the cloud. 

How do you have an urgent application that has to face this clog for over 1 week before it is being sent to court for a date, and that is if you get a date on same timeously. 

Cases take weeks before being assigned and litigants are losing faith. Even lawyers are getting tired. 

As I have earlier posited, we can have an e-filing without leaving our offices and then get a date for the hearing of your matter without seeing the registry. Ask how it is done at the Ecowas Court and other advanced countries, Tanzania, UK, USA, etc Senior lawyers in the profession know the truth and they see these things far across the shores of our country. If we want a change, we can get it. Let us be determined to do what is right. 

We should invest in the judiciary and implement guidelines and or rules that will make justice delivery effective. There are better ways to achieve desired revenue. When a system is seamless and effortlessly free, you will earn more as a counsel and the system will also get its desired revenue.

For the avoidance of doubt, below is also an extract from the observations of a learned friend Udems Esq.

“E-filing” means from your office, you send the processes, pay filing and service fees, and get your suit number assigned to your case the same day.

If you or your secretary has to be physically present in the court premises for any aspect of the filing, even if it is the payment of fees, then that is not e-filing.

The Lagos State Judiciary is very far from e-filing properly so-called.

In the Lagos State judiciary, there is what they call “temporary suit number” and “permanent suit number.” Why would that duplication be? Why can’t you assign a permanent suit number to a suit as soon as it is filed? Why would I have to wait for two, three weeks to get a permanent suit number? And thereafter wait for another one to three weeks to get the case assigned you a judge/court; and another one or two weeks to get the papers served (sorry for you in the hands of a bailiff); and then a 42-day period (in Lagos) for the defendant to react? Most times, the defendants come out of time for loads of reasons. Before the new filing system (so-called “e-system”) was introduced in Lagos, Lawyers used to file their cases and get suit numbers assigned instantly — same day. 

The new system, that was purportedly brought in to “accelerate justice” has, in reality, dragged the administration of justice far backward, leaving us far worse than it had met us.

SECOND OBSERVATION: The Rigours of man-made and or self-inflicted delays in the course of getting justice. A need for a total overhaul.

The Ikeja Court/Cash Registry for filing fresh cases is not helping matters and no thanks to the unhelpful rules of court and practice procedure. 

First is the issue of preaction notice, where your filing will be truncated and would be told to go back and spiral bind. 

The second is to insist that the endorsement page and the first page of the writ have to be together on the same page. Failure of which same is further rejected. When did all these start? And when will it end? Not with the plenty grammar on the writ format itself. 

A writ, in practice, ought to be prepared and issued by the Registrar ONLY after receipt of the Claimant's Statement of Claim as submitted either by the claimant himself or his counsel.

Something must be done.

If it is an e-filing process, then no lawyer or litigant is permitted to be at the registry for anything.

I can not be coming from Ikorodu to access processes at the registry then proceed back to my law firm in Ikorodu to scan those documents online and possibly by faith make payment. Then I go back to the division of court where the matter is to be assigned and have it stamped and signed by the commissioner for oaths, after which I now proceed again to the e-filing section to get a piece of paper attached to the process before it is being assigned. Why can't there be a centralised system rather than this journey here and there? I understand it is for revenue data coalition, but we have software that can separate these items by just inserting a code to processes meant for another division. 

Another issue is that you will be required to pay separately for the oath stamps, and also for the file (Yes, you pay for the file). This is very backward, awkward, and myopic. What are the filing fees for then?

We are in a country and system where every individual is at the slightest opportunity given, ready to milk you dry without value for services.

You still get to court, with no power supply, direct or indirect. Environment not conducive for the judex, litigants, and counsel.

Most judges still write longhand. Some are not I.T. compliant. Some are not even familiar with the rules of court. Some will adjourn an exparte application for ruling on substituted service, etc.

As per the uploading of documents, it is very stressful severing documents while uploading. You are required to scan a pdf of motion, affidavit, and address separately. Why can't litigants be allowed to upload these documents at once upon proper central assessment of same? Once these processes along with Exhibits are uploaded in one single pdf file, an assessor can check on same and revert on an amount to be paid with a seamless process devoid of payer ID issue. It is not everyone that has a payer ID. Not all litigants. Some are indigents.

The Lagos judiciary should take a cue from CAC.

Olajide Abiodun Esq.

(Master of the Rolls)

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