FCT judiciary initiates measures to decongest courts, detention centres
Cyril Mbah, Abuja
Senior judicial officers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have expressed concern over the high rate of connivance between some prosecutors and junior court personnel to thwart the course of justice for accused persons awaiting trial.
The practice has allegedly affected the effort of the management to reform the judiciary, especially in decongesting courts and several detention centres in the territory filled to the brim with awaiting trial (ATM) suspects.
In a swift move to curb the practice, the FCT judiciary had taken proactive steps and initiated measures to restore order in the court process by warning that officers found working against efforts to decongest courts and detention centres, would be promptly sanctioned.
As part of new measures to ensure smoothness in the process of justice administration, the Chief Judge of the FCT, Justice S. Garba, has made it mandatory for hearing notices to be served on parties involved in criminal or civil cases by every means available, and he warned against bringing matters up for trial without prior notices.
A strongly-worded circular, signed by the FCT Chief Registrar, Alhaji Mohammed Mustapha Adamu, on behalf of the Chief Judge, directed registrars of magistrate and high courts to ensure that one week hearing notices were issued to parties in every case or at least 48 hours to the hearing date during emergencies.
The circular warned of dire consequences against court clerks who fail to obey the directive, and added that complaints about summary trials and dismissal of cases without hearing from parties in litigations would no longer be tolerated.
Justice Garba said frequent adjournment of cases should also be stopped to ensure that pending matters get expeditious hearing, adding that the measures were meant to ensure speedy trial of criminal and civil cases pending in courts.
Commenting on measures to decongest the courts, a retired judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ngwada Balami, appealed to the FCT judiciary to go further by ensuring that frequent requests for adjournments, especially by prosecutors, are controlled.
“Adjournment of cases should not be more than four times, if we really want to decongest the courts and the prisons. Police prosecutors and counsels have formed the habit of asking for frivolous adjournments, and this attitude contributes to unnecessary delays in the conclusion of cases leading to congestion in courts and detention centres,” Justice Balami said.