The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ibadan branch, has called on the Chief Judge of Oyo State to, as a matter of urgency, totally withdraw or suspend the Pre-Action Protocol, which is contained in the Oyo State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2022, which the association describes as a hindrance to people getting access to justice.
The NBA made the call on Tuesday evening at a press conference held at the Aare Afe Babalola Bar Centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan, adding that if by Monday, which is the expiration of the seven-day notice given to the judiciary, nothing is done, lawyers in the state will not only boycott the courts but will also pursue all legal means to fight what they described as an injustice to litigants.
Speaking on behalf of the association, the chairman of the association, Mrs. Folasade Aladeniyi, stated that the rule, which was passed in the year 2020 was supposed to take effect in December 2020 but was moved to 2023 for copies of the law to be available in the market, adding that since it’s inception, it has been causing delay and inhibiting litigants’ access to justice.
She stated that the action was consequent upon the resolution of the Bar which was reached at the monthly general meeting of the NBA, Ibadan Branch, which was held on November 5, 2023, adding that the executive committee of the Bar had communicated the Bar’s resolution to the Oyo State Judiciary through a letter to the Chief Judge.
According to her, the pre-action protocol is usurping litigants’ right to justice and has affected the number of cases filed in court because fulfilling the requirements is difficult for litigants.
“In the last one year, the number of cases filed before the courts dropped to a third of what was filed the previous year because the pre-action protocol elongated the period required to file cases unnecessarily. And though the rule is legitimate, the fact that it impedes justice requires that it be set aside in line with previous rulings of the Supreme Court on such matters.
“We made representation to the judiciary since February, and they said they would look into the issue; on June 9, we sent a letter of reminder, and on October 30, we raised the issue at a meeting, but nothing was done until we wrote a letter on November 5, and they responded that the judiciary will not withdraw or suspend the pre-action protocol because our members were in the committee and they raised no objections.
“But our members said that was not part of the practice direction and that it was smuggled in. If within seven days nothing is done, we will be boycotting the courts to show our grievances,” Aladeniyi stated.
She further called on the state government to rise to its responsibilities as renovation alone cannot give access to justice, adding that “judges are overworked and being owed allowances, delayed renovation is affecting court sittings, there aren’t enough judges, and the government did not fulfil the requirements for appointment of judges during the NJC visit.
“The judiciary should also rise to its responsibilities; there is grace indiscipline among judiciary staff, their attitude to work is poor, and complaints have made no difference. Also, the inflation of fees that litigants pay is not realistic for this period,” she added.