Lagos Court of Appeal clogged with 4,630 cases, 6,207 motions

Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem

Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem: President Court of Appeal

Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem: President Court of Appeal

By Chinyere Omeire

More than 4,630 appeals and 6,207 motions were pending before the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal as at Dec. 1.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, gave the figures on Monday at the opening of the court’s first Working Retreat and Annual Conference of Justices of the Court of Appeal.

The event held at the premises of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.

Dongban-Mensem said that 345 appeals comprising 289 commercial appeals, 10 human rights appeals and 46 criminal appeals were scheduled for hearing during the four-day retreat.

The retreat had the theme: “Court of Appeal: Challenges and the Way Forward”.

According to Dongban-Mensem, the 345 appeals scheduled for hearing represent only eight per cent of the total number of appeals in the division.

She said that it might appear to be a difficult task, “but we are determined to decongest the court”.

Dongban-Mensem said that the working retreat would consist of special court sessions involving 23 Special Appellate Panels.

She added that due to time and space constraints, the panels would sit in batches of six special panels on each designated days from Dec. 7 to Dec. 10, from 9.00a.m. to 12.00p.m. daily.

The Court of Appeal president said that each panel would hear about 15 appeals, with five panels sitting at five designated courtrooms of the National Industrial Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, and one panel at Court 1 of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.

She said that the management of the court hoped that the exercise would continue in the various appeal court divisions until reduction of the backlog.

“Undoubtedly, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, is a critical division within the court; it sits at the commercial nerve centre of our great nation, Nigeria.

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“Despite this, the division has continued to experience delay in the hearing of appeals before it, largely due to the volume of appeals in its docket and the limited number of justices available to hear them,” Dongban-Mensem said.

She said that the retreat was expected to feature special court sittings by all justices of the Court of Appeal from all the divisions of the court.

Dongban-Mensem said that on assumption of office, she discovered that many appeals had either been abandoned or purposely left to linger endlessly by mischievous and flippant actors in the litigation process.

She said that it was regrettable to note that some of the appeals were filed with the aim of stalling the judicial process.

“This situation must not be allowed to continue. We have come out to demonstrate our abhorrence by taking the bull by the horn,” she said.

Dongban-Mensem said that the purpose of the retreat was to send out a warning to the public that the court would no longer be a dumping ground for those seeking to hamper justice delivery.

She noted that justices in the court were 70 in number at present – 20 less in the statutorily required 90 justices for the Court of Appeal.

“Our actions this week will afford us all a chance to discuss various aspects of our work, health and wellbeing.

“It is my desire and expectation that under my stewardship, delay in hearing appeals will become a thing of the past, not just in Lagos division but also in other divisions of the Court of Appeal,” she said.

The appellate court president, however, expressed appreciation to the various heads of courts.

Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) represented the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria at the event.

Osipitan called for review for the qualifications to become a senior advocate of Nigeria.

He said that many frivolous applications at the Court of Appeal were being filed by lawyers to meet a prerequisite for becoming a member of the inner bar. (NAN)