— Suggests NIC model of using courier services
— Says extortion hampering access to justice
The Non-governmental organization, Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative has urged the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, to consider overhauling the entire bailiff section of the court due to alleged wanton corruption and extortion currently plaguing that section of the court.
In a letter made available to ASKLEGALPALACE but addressed to the Chief Judge of the Court, the NGO noted that on numerous occasions it has been compelled to pay outrageous fees in other to serve process outside Jurisdiction, and this has greatly hampered the administration of Justice, especially when considered in light of the pro bono services it renders as an NGO to indigent persons [prisoners].
The said letter which is titled ‘COMPLAINT ABOUT THE PROHIBITIVE CHARGES FOR SERVICE OUTSIDE JURISDICTION BY BAILIFFS OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT AND A CALL FOR A MORE STRUCTURED, TRANSPARENT AND USER-FRIENDLY APPROACH’ and signed by the executive director of the organization, Mr. Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, noted that although most times the excuse given for such outrageous fees boarders on the transportation to be done, howbeit, on numerous occasions, the bailiffs do not themselves travel but rather opt for a courrier service in order to deliver the processes.
The NGO further urged the Chief Judge to consider the system as operational at the National Industrial Court, in other to checkmate the waton extortion.
See below the full letter:
18th March 2021
The Chief Judge
Federal High Court
COMPLAINT ABOUT THE PROHIBITIVE CHARGES FOR SERVICE OUTSIDE JURISDICTION BY BAILIFFS OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT AND A CALL FOR A MORE STRUCTURED, TRANSPARENT AND USER-FRIENDLY APPROACH
Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI) is a Non-governmental Organization offering pro bono legal services to indigent Inmates and detainees across the country.
We write this letter to bring to your lordship’s notice the extortionist tendencies and the apparent lack of proper regulation of the bailiff section of the Federal High Court. The section has been charging prohibitive amount for service of processes outside the state of filing. We have been a victim of this anomaly which is indirectly an act of denial of access to justice to indigents we represent and likely to represent.
As an NGO we have cause to regularly file Fundamental Rights Application on behalf of indigents whose right to Freedom of Liberty has been breached and have been victims of inhuman and degrading treatment. We are currently handling two matters before the Lagos division of the court where we represent scores of inmates. In Suit No. FHC/L/CS/2297/19- The Incorporated Trustees of Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative V. The Federal Government of Nigeria & Ors, we sued on behalf of 3113 inmates of Ikoyi Custodial Centre on the inhuman and degrading treatment of inmates and failure of the authorities to apply the provisions of section 12(4) of the Nigeria Correctional Services Act which seeks to combat overcrowding in the facilities. In Suit No. FHC/L/CS/166/2021- The Incorporated Trustees of Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative V. Attorney General of The Federation & 3 Ors, we sued on behalf of 101 inmates of Kirikiri Medium and maximum Correctional Centres who have been behind bars for 12 years without trial.
Our observation is that the Bailiff section is not properly regulated and charges for service outside the state of filing is arbitrary and at the whims and caprices of the respective bailiffs. The section has been made susceptible to corruption and we have been victim on many occasions.
In Suit No. FHC/L/CS/2297/19 we were made to pay N35, 000 in the first instance for service of originating processes in Abuja and another N30,000 for the issuance of hearing notices to parties who were absent on the initial date fixed for hearing.
In Suit No. FHC/L/CS/166/2021 after a lot of plea, we paid N28,000 to the bailiff and we are been asked to pay N25,000 for service of hearing notices for the hearing coming up on the 19th of April 2021.
This trend is not new and not peculiar to Lagos Division. In 2014 we filed Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/84/2014- Abdul-Ganniy Jimoh and Anor V. DSS & Ors, in Abeokuta division on behalf of a cleric detained by the Department of State Services for over a year without trial. We paid N30,000 in the first instance and was made to pay N30,000 for service of hearing notice.
The bailiffs always claim that the charges are high because they have to physically travel by bus to Abuja to serve the respective agencies sued as defendants, we find this very absurd. We know for a fact that most of them do not travel but either send the processes to their colleagues through courier services or through transport services plying Lagos-Abuja route.
My lord, we are appealing that the activities of the Bailiff Section of the court be reviewed and appropriate reforms made. We shall be recommending the system adopted by the National Industrial Court to the Federal High Court.
The National Industrial Court engaged the services of courier companies to serve outside the state of filing and to serve a process from Lagos to Abuja is N3,570, Ogun State to Abuja is N4988. We have attached a comprehensive list of cost of service to all states of the Federation from the FCT for your information.
In summary our concerns are:
1. High cost of service of processes outside the state of filing at the Federal High Court.
2. Lack of fixed cost of service of processes outside the state of filing at the Federal High Court.
3. Arbitrary fixing of bogus cost of service by bailiffs and corruption within the Bailiff Section.
4. Absence of standard procedures and monitoring of activities of the Bailiff Section.
Our recommendations are:
1. An overhaul of the Bailiff Section of the Federal High Court.
2. Engagement of Courier Companies for the service of processes outside the state of filing and pasting the list of cost of service to all states across the federation conspicuously at the registries of the court.
3. A drastic reduction in service fees to foster access to justice.
4. Having a standard procedure for the activities of the Bailiff Section.
5. Adequate monitoring of staff of the Bailiff Section and issuing appropriate sanctions to errant members of staff of the section.
We urge your lordship to act on this very important issue swiftly. We have no doubt that if this is achieved under your Lordship’s leadership, your good name will be etched in Gold.
Executive Director, Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative
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