Bearing in mind that the traditional annual vacation of Nigerian courts is around the corner, various courts across the country have issued circulars either cancelling their annual vacation for 2020 or announcing the judges appointed to entertain disputes arising during the vacation period.
The details of the announcements are as follows:
- High Court of Ogun State: by a letter addressed to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ogun State branch, the Deputy Chief Registrar informed the NBA that the Chief Judge had directed that courts in Ogun State will not observe annual vacation for 2020 and in essence, courts will remain open for business. Rather, individual judges will proceed on vacation as directed by the Chief Judge.
- High Court of Jigawa State: the Chief Judge of Jigawa State issued a notice cancelling the 2020 annual court vacation of the Jigawa State Judiciary. This was to enable courts in Jigawa State hear the backlog of cases and decongest the State’s correctional centres. The annual vacation for the Jigawa State judiciary was formerly scheduled to commence on 13th July 2020 and end on 11th September 2020.
- Federal High Court: a notice issued by the Federal High Court announced that the Federal High Court will proceed on its annual vacation from 27th July 2020 to 25th September 2020. Vacation judges who will attend to matters during the vacation period in each jurisdiction of the Federal High Court have also been announced.
- National Industrial Court of Nigeria: the National Industrial Court of Nigeria issued a notice announcing that it will proceed on its annual vacation from 27th July 2020 to 25th September 2020. A roaster of vacation judges responsible for handling matters during the vacation period has been posted on the court’s website.
- arrest of a ship;
- fundamental rights, and
- any matter considered “extremely urgent”.
Entertaining disputes during court vacation
The fact that courts are on vacation does not imply a cessation of all court sittings. A judge may hear a cause or matter during the vacation period where such cause or matter is urgent or if a judge, at the request of all the parties concerned, agrees to hear it. The Federal High Court notice announcing its vacation period specifically provides that the following matters will be entertained during the vacation period:
Subject to the rules of each court, an application for hearing during the vacation period supported by an affidavit of urgency may be made by summons in chambers, before the vacation Judge, or the Judge before whom the substantive case is pending. Upon the grant of the said application, such a matter will be entertained during the vacation period.
New Legal Year
All courts will resume sitting at the end of the vacation period which will usher in the commencement of the new legal year. As we look forward to the new legal year, we hope the courts will be better positioned to operate in a safe and efficient manner in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and will have fully installed the necessary infrastructure for remote/virtual hearings.