Legal Opinion On The Innovations In The Court Of Appeal Rules 2021 -By Ochima George Esq.

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INTRODUCTION

 

The new Court of Appeal rules 2021 which became applicable on 1st November, 2021 has some new rules which brings some innovation to the filing as well as smooth litigation before the Appellate court. I advocate for every Nigerian court to include in its rules of Court as well as practice directions provisions for the use of ICT, such as electronic filing system, adoption of virtual hearings.

The inclusion of ICT in our judicial system in my humble opinion will reduce the incident of loss records due to fire, destruction of courts etc., it is high time we do away with archaic paper filing systems. furthermore, it will make case management, case tracking, court schedule and instant transcript easier and less time consuming. Electronic filing will ensure the maximum security of court records as well as easy retrieval of same. Deployment of court room technology through the use of court recording and transcribing system, videoconferencing will reduce the work load and stress of judges and other judicial officers. In addition, records of proceedings can be easily accessible to the public who intend to find out about a matter.  The court has given credence to virtual hearing in the supreme court decision in SC/CV/260/2020 – Attorney General of Lagos State V Attorney General of the Federation & The National Assembly, therefore Heads of Courts should include it in their rules of court. The Court of Appeal made some laudable rules in the Court of Appeal rules 2021. The following are some new provisions and analysis on the rules;

  1. ORDER 6 Rule 1; Applications before the court

This rule provides that; applications before the court shall be by Motion on Notice which will be supported by affidavit and a written address; also provides that a respondent shall have 5 days to file her response and 3 days for any of such applicant to file her reply. The rule further provides for the number of required pages for Written address which should not exceed 5 pages and reply on point of law shall not exceed 3 pages.

  1. ORDER 8 Rule 11

This rule provides that the Appellant deposits a sum not less that 50,000.00 (Fifty thousand naira) with the Deputy Chief registrar of the division where the Appeal is being filed.

  1. ORDER 8 RULE 18

Sub 1; This rule provides that where the lower court fails to transmit records as prescribed by the rules of the court; then the Respondent may by motion on notice apply for the appeal to be struck out. Furthermore, where the appeal is struck out, the court may award cost against the Appellant. However, the Appellant shall file for the relisting of the appeal within seven (7) of the striking out order.

  1. ORDER 11

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This rule stipulates on the position for withdrawal of an appeal; this can be by a Notice of withdrawal by the Appellant, or as provided in subsection 2 of the Order by consent of both parties to the Appeal. Furthermore, that where there is unilateral withdrawal, it will not serve as a bar against cost. Lastly, a Notice which as been withdrawn unilaterally or by the consent of both parties shall be deemed dismissed even where the court doesn’t grant an Order of dismissal.

  1. Order 19

This stipulates the rule on computation of time, and provides thus; that the computation of time to;

  1. File any court process within the specified time
  2. Do any act provided by the rules
  3. Pay default fees for extension of time within which to file a process

Shall be exempted during any occurrence of any event which disrupts the normal conduct of business of court.

  1. ORDER 20

This provides for electronic filing of processes; subsection 2 stipulates that electronic filing unit for registry of every judicial division of the court shall be established. Subsection 3, provides that where any filing is done after 2pm on a working day, it will be deemed filed on the next working day.

  1. ORDER 21
  2. This Order provides for virtual hearing. Also states that parties shall be fully robbed for virtual hearings as well as the rules and etiquette observed during physical hearing will be observed during virtual hearings. Furthermore, the court shall apply the relevant laws and rules of the Court.

 

ANALYSIS OF THE NEW PROVISIONS IN THE RULES OF THE COURT

I am sincerely elated by most of the new rules provided for in the new court of appeal rules, most of the rules are necessary for the smooth running of the court as well as rapid dispensation of justice. Firstly Order 6 which provides for a Motion of Notice to be supported by Affidavit as well as Written Address this in my humble opinion it is noteworthy, as an applicant should come before the court which compelling arguments for the grant of an application and where the Respondent has more compelling arguments supported by authorities the court will consider the applications as well as the arguments for or against before granting such.

Furthermore, the provision in my opinion is that this will forestall frivolous appeals and appellants who often abandon appeals. This also prevents the Appellants from abandoning their appeals as cost is being paid prior to filing of the Appeal. Furthermore, Order 11 provides for the withdrawal by Appellant or unilaterally or via consent of the parties.

In addition, Order 19 which provides for computation of time in my humble opinion put into consideration such events which are beyond the power of the parties as well as court, thereby stalling proceeding these captures issues such unforeseen circumstances such as pandemic (as we witnessed during the Covid 19 where courts closed indefinitely) also the recent Judiciary strike which also grounded courts. In humbly believe this is a very laudable rule.

Lastly, the rule on electronic filing, in this 21st Century, I believe that it will do a lot of good for our court in Nigeria to embrace ICT and inculcate electronic filing, with the aftermath of the endsars protest and burning of the High Court, Igbosere in Lagos state which led to the loss of vital information as well as court files due to the fire. Therefore, it is a welcome development for the Court of Appeal to adopt electronic filing system. In addition, with the recent covid19 pandemic which struck worldwide and its attendant effects on the Nigerian judiciary which left litigants as well as lawyers unable to have their matters heard as a result of the court being closed.  The inculcation of ICT in the rules is to me the best innovation in the rules and should be emulated by other courts.

 

By Ochima George Esq. Marble Partners LP



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