Lawyers Threaten Court Boycott Over Pre-action Protocol Rule

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ibadan branch, has issued a stern warning that lawyers will boycott the courts if the Pre-Action Protocol Rule, as outlined in the Oyo State High Court Civil Procedure Rule, 2022, is not suspended. The Chairman of the association, Folasade Aladeniyi, conveyed this message during a news briefing in Ibadan.

Aladeniyi stressed the necessity for the state judiciary to suspend or withdraw the rule contained in Order 3 of Oyo State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rule, 2022, which is perceived as limiting and obstructing litigants’ constitutional rights and legal practitioners’ access to the court for legal remedies.

The rules, including Practice Directions on Pre-action Protocol Specific Claim and revisions to filing fees and administrative fees payable to the state judiciary, were established by former Chief Judge Justice Munta Abimbola in 2022.

After a general meeting on November 4, the NBA members resolved to issue a seven-day notice to the judiciary, demanding the suspension and/or withdrawal of the pre-action protocol rule. Aladeniyi warned that if this demand is not met, lawyers will proceed with a total boycott of all courts in the state. The notice is set to expire on November 13.

“We hereby give the notice as resolved by the entire Bar.

“The reason for the Bar’s resolution is aptly captured in the fact that the existence of the said pre-action protocol now limits and hinders the constitutional rights of the litigants and the legal practitioners to access the court to seek legal redress.

“We wish to place it on record that the Bar also resolved at the said November monthly general meeting that the Oyo State judiciary should, as a matter of urgency, consider a downward review of the prohibitive and exorbitant filing fees and other administrative charges enshrined in the new Oyo State High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2022, payable by courts’ users.

“Also, the recent increment in the fees for commissioning an affidavit on the new e-affidavit platform put in place by the Oyo State judiciary which was discovered to have been recently increased from N1,100 to N2,500 be reviewed downward.

“It is in the light of the foregoing that we are of the firm view that your lordship would consider and give effect to the Bar’s demands, as contained in this notice.

“This is to prevent avoidable occurrence of courts’ boycott and other lawful means to press home the Bar’s demands, if Oyo State judiciary fails to accede to the yearnings and demands of Bar,” she said.

Aladeniyi also urged the state government to provide favourable working conditions for the judiciary to enable it perform its duties effectively.

“We need more judges; we should have up to 33 but now, we have only 20; this makes the judges to be over-laboured.

“Also, the state’s Ministry of Justice is under-funded; lawyers are not well paid while the court environment is dilapidated.

“Oyo State judiciary has really been neglected. Recently, one of our courts almost collapsed on the judges; no mobility and good infrastructure for lawyers.

“Even the magistrates don’t have cars and adequate working tools.

“So we are using this medium to call on the state government to urgently look into our plights,” she added.