Edo abolishes Customary Court of Appeal

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Edo State Government has repealed the Act establishing the State Customary Court of Appeal that had hitherto existed alongside the State High Courts.
Addressing newsmen after signing into the Bill repealing the Act Establishing the Customary Court of Appeal, Tuesday, the State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, said, “I have just signed into the bill to repeal the establishment of the Customary Court of Appeal in Edo State. With effect from today, the Customary Court of Appeal cease to exist and this amendment to the Edo State High Court provides for, among other things, the abolition of the Customary Court of Appeal. It also provides for the automatic transfer of all the Judges that are currently serving in the Customary Court of Appeal and they will be transferred to the State High Court.

“With the abolition of the Customary Court of Appeal’, the Governor explained: “the Judges in Edo State High Court are now by reason of this amendment increased from 24 to 30 in order to provide our people with speedy access to justice. At the moment, we have close to 6,000 cases pending before 24 judges of the State High Court. With this amendment, all 30 Judges will now be able to hear any of these cases as may be assigned by the Chief Judge.

“The second element to the amendment is that the Judges that have now been transferred from the Customary Court of Appeal that has now been abolished to the State High Court, although they require by to subscribe to new oaths of office, but they will retain their seniority in Edo State Judiciary so there will be no loss of seniority and lastly, by this amendment, appeals arising from the decisions of Area Customary Court Presidents will still be heard but rather than have six judges dedicated to hear such cases that arise from time to time, the State Chief Judge will now assign Judges of the High Court to hear appeals from Area Customary Court.

“That is the way it was before and it worked perfectly well. So this amendment has not closed the door to appeals of Customary Court Judgments. So Customary Court issues can still be heard at Appeal level but the Chief Judge will be at liberty to designate Judges more or less the same way the Chief Judge currently has designated some courts as criminal court, designated some court as Revenue Court and even what we call Mobile Court.

“So, the beauty of it is that no Judge will not now be restricted to hearing very limited cases under the Customary court alone. They will be able to hear those cases along with any other cases whether it is a criminal case or a civil case or any matter that is brought before them and I believe this is in the best interest of Edo State, this is in the best interest of the public and even the Bar Association should benefit because there will be greater efficiency and access to justice is also quickened.

“So in the new year, we will formally practicalise this amendment by formally swearing in the effective transfer of Judges from Customary Court of Appeal to State High Court. It bears repeating that the Customary Court system remains. Judges of Customary Court are still there, whether these be Customary Court Presidents, or Area Courts.

‘So this is consistent with the commitment of this government to sustain reforms in every aspect of governance. Under democracy, we must keep changing. The only thing that is constant is change, we must keep on re-examining how we can get things better done for efficiency and ensure that service delivery including access to justice is fastened and improved upon.

“I know that this is in the overall benefit of the litigants, it is in the benefit of the judges and it is in the benefit of our state and our people.”

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