Summary and Analysis of Practice Directions Issued by the Federal High Court and the High Court of Lagos State on Covid-19
The recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Nigeria led to an initial suspension of court hearings by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) following the recommendation of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). The suspension, as expected was extended in reliance on the government declared lockdown which has led to the issuance of Practice Directions (PD) by Chief Judges (CJ) of courts in the exercise of their powers.
Prior to the issuance of these directions, by a circular dated 4/05/2020, the National Judicial Council (NJC) had warned against the conduct of proceedings by some courts without regard to its constituted committee on the matter and the awaited report. The focus of this paper is on the PDs issued by the CJ of the Federal High Court (FHC) and the CJ of the High Court of Lagos State (LSHC).
FHC PRACTICE DIRECTIONS 2020 FOR THE COVID-19 PERIOD
By a circular issued on 29/04/2020, the FHC CJ issued a warning to all Judges of the court to desist from conducting any proceedings whatsoever until the issuance of appropriate guidelines by the NJC. According to the CJ, the FHC is not independent of the NJC and should await the directives as may be issued by the regulatory authority. This careful position by the CJ is however contrary to the powers already donated to him by the enabling provision of Section 254 of the Constitution.
On 18/05/2020, the CJ issued the FHC PD referencing the NJC guidelines and relying generally on the enabling provision in the 1999 Constitution, amongst others. Efforts will be made to briefly discuss its salient points.