Read Full Text of Speech By FCT Chief Judge At Signing of FCT District Courts Civil Procedure Rules
SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE FCT, HON. JUSTICE H. B. YUSUF AT THE SIGNING OF THE FCT DISTRICT COURTS CIVIL PROCEDURE RULES 2021 ON THE 12TH DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2021
1. My lords, your worships, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to welcome you to this event which I describe as epochal due to its significance to the administration of justice in our District Courts. I thank you all for coming at short notice. I do not take this for granted as it demonstrates your commitment to the development of our laws and the success of the judiciary under my watch.
2. We are going to witness shortly the signing into force of the FCT District Courts Civil Procedure Rules, 2021. The significance of this event is underscored by the fact that the District Court Act Cap. 495 LFN,(Abuja) 1990 and the Rules made thereto before now applicable in the FCT were enacted by the legislature of the then Northern Region of Nigeria and came into force on the 30th September, 1960. Therefore, there has been stagnation in the evolution of the law and procedure in the lower court with civil jurisdiction for some time now.
3. It took the foresight of My Lord the immediate past Chief Judge of the FCT, Hon. Justice Salisu Garba, to remedy this situation by putting together a committee, inaugurated by His Lordship on the 23rd March, 2021, to review and update the relevant laws establishing the District Courts in the FCT, review and upgrade the civil procedure rules applicable in the Court and review and propose appropriate monetary jurisdiction for District Courts in the FCT, amongst other terms of reference. The committee lived up to its billing and, I am happy to inform you that the first installment of the Committee’s work has as its end product the District Courts (Increase in Jurisdiction of District Court Judges) Order, 2021, which has since come into force on the 6th October, 2021. I sincerely appreciate the Hon. Minister of the Federal Capital territory Abuja for the prompt endorsement of the Order. (Am aware that the Minister is here ably represented by the Hon. Solicitor General) The second installment of the Committee’s work being the new District Courts Civil Procedure Rules, 2021 is here waiting to come into force.
4. I feel specially privileged that apart from being found worthy by My Lord the former Chief Judge to chair the Committee, faith has decreed that I should be the one to sign the new Rules into force as substantive Chief Judge.
5. Permit me to list some of the notable provisions in the new Rules:
1. Reviewed and simplified the court forms;
2. Provided for praecipe of evidence for frontloading with exceptions for waiver for illiterate self represented litigants;
3. Provided for new mode for commencing action by ‘originating application’;
4. Made provisions for claims in a foreign currency;
5. Made provisions for counterclaim and set off;
6.Made provisions for service of processes by electronic means;
6. Identification and designation of Districts;
7. Mode of Third-party proceedings;
8. Timelines for hearing cases and limits on number of adjournments permissible per party;
9. Timeline for judgments and rulings;
10. Nonsuiting and procedure thereof;
11. Review of fees;
12. Procedure for discontinuance;
13. Provision for award of interest;
14. Effect of noncompliance with the rules;
15. Specific duty on Chief Registrar to open interest yielding accounts for interim or interlocutory orders upon stay of execution etc.
6. Though the committee is still working on the FCT Magistrate Act, I want to sincerely thank the members especially the alternate chairperson, Hon. Justice M. Osho-Adebiyi who ably took over when the weight of the office fell on me during the transition period of the administration. My lord brought in the wealth of her knowledge to bear as an accomplished magistrate (as she then was with the Lagos State Judiciary) and a Judge of the High Court of the FCT. I commend the other members of the committee who have shown a lot of diligence and commitment at this record speed. Not every competent person has the opportunity of imparting the system but your generation will be kind to you for this giant strides.
7. I believe that the train is on the move and therefore beckon on all the stake holders especially the Nigerian Bar Association to continue partnering with the Judiciary as ministers in the temple of justice to implement these noble innovations made in the new Rules. No doubt it offers an opportunity to improve our systems and enhance speedy dispensation of justice. Thus, our Courts stand to resolve disputes more quickly and less expensively.
8. Thank you all and permit me as I now sign the FCT District Courts Civil Procedure Rules into force this 12th day of November, 2021.
Hon. Justice Husseini Baba Yusuf
Chief Judge FCT