Group raises alarm over alleged bribery at Federal High Court, head judge douses tension

Justice Tsoho, Chief Judge, FHC.


A group, Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary (FIACIJ) has raised concern over what it called racketeering at the Federal High Court Registries in respect of filing of court processes.

According to the group, the ‘shady deal’ involves court staff, registrars, litigation clerks and lawyers who ask, receive kickbacks to pass simple court processes for signing or stamping. To FIACIJ’s surprise even lawyers are willing tools and always ready to abet the practice to get their processes pass through the tables on time.

In a complaint petition written to expose the alleged ills and titled: “Corruption and Delays at the Federal High Court, Lagos”, the convener of the group, Mr. Bayo Akinlade wrote: “I rarely have cases that take me to the Federal High Court so I am not personally aware about the Corruption therein. Moreso lawyers who practise there hardly give any feedback (most lawyers can’t be bothered anyway).
I, however, had cause to go to the Federal High Court recently and was a bit disappointed as to the services rendered and the environment in which these services are rendered.
To start with, I spent more than five hours just to process a CTC and still did not conclude the process on the same day. Moving from one section to another, there were more than five endorsements on my application letter as I took it from one stage to the other.
“In filing a motion, another five plus hours spent from endorsements to paying to making copies to oaths etc. I was even laughing when someone had to wait more than an hour just to pay N20….what a joke….
I cannot begin to outline all the steps one must undergo to get a process filed or to have a simple affidavit done but what I do realise is that a system so burdensome encourages corrupt practices and it thrives at the Federal High Court.
“I interviewed the lawyers who regularly practie there and they just laughed and shrugged their shoulders when I asked them why they tolerate this environment. The litigation clerks from different prestigious firms with other lawyers squeeze themselves into this tiny space to assess, pay and stamp their processes, hours of going back and forth until they are forced to part with some money to get ‘special attention’ or to ‘fast track’ their jobs.
I can understand that for some law firms, it’s a small price to pay when one considers the millions of naira at stake in cases that are filed at the federal high courts.
So let’s ask the difficult questions and state the obvious.
. Lawyers are still at the root of the corruption in the federal high court.
. Even when the filing procedures are cumbersome and time wasting, lawyers who frequently practise at the Federal High Court do not see the need to bring their knowledge to bear in assisting the Head Judge come up with a better, more efficient and less corrupt court administrative system. 
. Lawyers are happy to make offers to court staff to get what they want timely not realising that their actions actually compromise the entire integrity of the Judiciary.
. The NBA branches have by it’s inactions in tackling these corrupt vices within the Judiciary, simply neglected one of it’s basic responsibilities, aims and objectives which is the protection of the integrity of the Judiciary.
We are all to blame here. Lawyers both at the Bar and the Bench have sold out our birthright as custodians and Ministers in the temple of Justice to lay men and women working within our justice system.
We have devalued ourselves in the eyes of court registrars, bailiffs, clerks, messengers etc. Yet we fight our colleagues on the Bench and petition against them for any perceived infraction but we cower before and beg court staff for favours.
How do we now handle these issues? How do we regain the prestige and honour of the legal profession and the Judiciary. In these days of an enlightened generation that can bring the police to its knees, that can organise to loot and destroy government structures and property within a twinkle of an eye. How do we bring back the honour on which the legal profession was established and built?
“It is time we make some sacrifices. It is time to say Enough is Enough!
We Cannot continue to tolerate bribery and corruption in the Judiciary and expect to see Justice Done", "Do not offer Or Give a Bribe”.

But when the attention of the presiding judge of the Lagos Division of the court, Justice Ayokunle Faji was drawn to these complained activities at the Registry, he reacted very swiftly by summoning the group’s leadership whereby he promised to deal with the matter instantly by way of investigating the matter, fishing out the culprits and meting out appropriate punishments if found guilty.

The coordinator of FIACIJ, Mr. Bayo Akinlade, Esq at the end of the meeting with head judge also reported what transpired between them. In another release made available on Thursday he wrote: “In prompt response to a complaint from Bayo Akinlade Esq, National Convener, FIACIJ; the Honourable Head Judge of the FHC, Lagos Division invited the Convener for a meeting.
“The Head Judge noted that the corrupt activities of the Court’s Registry will no longer be tolerated but encouraged lawyers to report such infractions especially the request for inducement.
His lordship assured the convener that those who collect bribes and demand inducements will be dealt with promptly.
“The FIACIJ Convener reiterated the commitment of FIACIJ to end corruption in the Judiciary by supporting the Judiciary’s efforts to root out bad elements within it’s structure.
Both agreed that the lawyers have a great responsibility in rising above the demands made and refuse to give in to the inducements while urging lawyers to desist from offering bribes.
It was regretted that the current Court infrastructure presented a challenge but such challenges will soon be cured when the new building is complete.
He concluded: “We in FIACIJ appreciate the Head Judge for looking at this issue as well as commending the efforts of Dr. Ajibade SAN and the NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. IK Uwanna for their earlier interventions in this regard. “Stop giving bribes”, Akinlade tells lawyers.