— Interlocutory appeal, AGF consent, exparte order

Senate President, Godswill Akpabio has recommended three key areas of immediate reform in the nation’s judiciary to ensure efficient justice delivery.

Speaking on Wednesday in Abuja at the opening of a two-day National Summit on Justice 2024 with the theme, “Repositioning the Justice System: Constitutional, Statutory, and Operational Reforms for Access and Efficiency,” listed the key areas where urgent reform are needed to include interlocutory appeals in civil cases, requirement of Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF’s consent before execution of judgment and arbitrary issuance of axparte order by some judges in political matters.

He said: “It is essential that we reform our approach to interlocutory appeals in civil cases. Currently, these appeals often cause unnecessary delays, prolonging litigation and burdening our courts. As was done in the criminal jurisprudence during the enactment of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, we propose that all appeals in civil cases should be taken only after the conclusion of the substantive case. This change will accelerate judicial processes, reduce backlog, and ensure that litigations are not unduly prolonged by intermediate appeals.

“Another area requiring urgent reform is the need for obtaining the Attorney General’s consent before executing judgments. This requirement often acts as a bottleneck, delaying justice and undermining the autonomy of our judicial system. We propose modifying this requirement to facilitate a swifter execution of judgments, thereby enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of our justice system.

“We are not ignorant of the rationale for securing the Attorney General’s consent as stipulated in section of Sheriff and Civil Procesess Act which is to avoid the embarrassment of not knowing that funds earmarked for specific purposes have been diverted in satisfaction of a judgment debt which the government may not know anything about. It our view to enhance efficiency while maintaining necessary checks, we propose replacing the requirement for the Attorney General’s consent with a mandatory notification system. Upon receiving a judgment against the government, the relevant authorities will notify the Attorney General immediately in writing.

“Following the notification, the Attorney General will have a specified period, say 30 days, to respond. The response could involve initiating an appeal or settling the matter directly. This timeline ensures prompt action and prevents undue delays in justice delivery.

“If there is no response from the Attorney General within this period, the judgment will be executed automatically. This measure is crucial to prevent stalling and ensure that judgments are respected and enforced in a timely manner. In cases where the judgment comes from a final court, the option to appeal is not available. Therefore, the Attorney General’s response would be primarily directed towards settlement.

“This approach ensures that the government acts responsibly as a litigant and respects the decisions of our highest court in the land. Reforms like this foster trust in the justice system and improve the overall efficiency of legal proceedings involving the government.

“Finally we must try and curb the misuse of ex parte orders in political cases by our judges. To curb it, it is imperative that the National Judicial Council (NJC) exercises stringent oversight. We recommend prompt and decisive punishment for judges who are found to abuse their authority in this manner.

“We further propose that the NJC establish clear and detailed standards governing the issuance of ex parte orders, accompanied by a defined set of sanctions for violations. These sanctions should be severe enough to serve as a deterrent against future abuses
“We recommend that the NJC should conduct regular audits and reviews of ex parte orders issued by judges to ensure compliance with established standards. This proactive approach will help in identifying patterns of abuse early and in administering corrective measures promptly.

“In addition to punitive measures, we also emphasize the importance of ongoing training and education for judges on the ethical and responsible use of judicial discretion in issuing ex parte orders.”


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