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Civil procedure sluggish, inefficient, needs reform — Agbakoba

A former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has called for the reform of Nigeria’s court procedure, saying it is…

A former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has called for the reform of Nigeria’s court procedure, saying it is presently sluggish and inefficient.

For decades, civil litigation in Nigeria has been bedevilled by several factors that defeat the ends of justice and which,  according to Agbakoba, have created devices to keep themselves busy while achieving little.

“Lawyers wake up in the morning, don their wigs and gowns, and go to court. You would think they were doing something important or useful. Instead, in court, lawyers deploy, exploit, and manipulate these devices – by devices, I mean gambits like “adjournment”, “call-over”, “date”, “extension of time”, “jurisdiction”, “mention”, and “objections” etc.

“Lawyers on opposing sides may disagree on the merits of their respective cases, but they agree on the frequent invocation of these mantras.

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“Judges, who are of course lawyers and most have practiced this hocus-pocus for decades before ascending the bench, watch in bemusement, fellow-feeling, empathy, or sympathy,” he said.

He said sometimes, chagrined by the damage lawyers’ wizardry was doing to justice delivery, some judges wished they could intervene to stop it all.

“But they feared they could not, because that meant descending into the arena; a species of witchcraft condemned by a long line of their illustrious forebears at common law.

“The mantra seemed to be: Once you ascend (to the bench), you must never descend (to the arena),” he stated.