Lawyers in Akwa Ibom set to boycott courts over TSA

By Samuel Ita, Uyo 

Members of the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) are set for a showdown with the state government over its decision to implement a Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy. 

They have given the state government up until Friday, June 3, 2016, to reverse the policy or face their wrath, which is a toal boycott of all courts in the state beginning from Monday, June 6, 2016. 

The lawyers in a statement jointly signed by the NBA Chairmen of Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Eket and Oron branches, Aniekan Akpan, Essien Obong, Nsima Nsima and Emmanuel Ukor, respectively said in as much as they do not have any issues with government over the implementation policy, they however condemned attempt to treat the Judiciary, as an appendage of the Executive.

They lamented that throughout the planning stages of the policy, no stakeholder, be it judiciary staff, legal practitioner, litigant or the general public was carried along or educated on the new policy by the state government. 

According to them, a process that customarily should take a maximum of 30 minutes, now takes all of two days under the new regime. 

They asked the state government to design a payment structure that does not take the litigant or lawyer outside the premises of any court. 

They listed some of the problems associated with TSA to include subjecting litigants and lawyers to the notoriously long queues in banking halls coupled with the epileptic internet connectivity for generation of print out. 

Other problems associated with the TSA according to the lawyers are extortion by Sub Treasury staff who under the guise of power failure, extort money from litigants and lawyers ostensibly to buy fuel to print out receipts. 

The immediate impact of these problems, the lawyers said, was the inability of litigants and lawyers meeting statutory deadlines for filing of processes for which they are penalized for at no fault of theirs. 

They said: “Under the new regime for filing of court processes, upon being assessed for payment, a litigant or legal practitioner is compelled to get to a bank, make payment in the normal course of banking, obtain a computer print out from the bank, visit the Sub Treasury where a customized receipt is printed out in exchange for the bank printout. He then goes back to the Court Registry for endorsement of the payment on the process. 

 “The plight of litigants and lawyers filing processes in rural areas of the state where there are no banks deserves special mention. To make a payment of N100 in a District Court in Ini Local Government, a litigant will go all the way to Ikot Ekpene to pay at a bank. That alone takes one full day, not to mention the cost and risk of transportation. Same goes for other places where there are no banks. 

“We want the immediate suspension of the application of the present policy to the judiciary and reversion to the manual treasury receipts. As a responsive government, we trust that these can be accomplished by Friday 3, June 2016. Commencing from Monday, June 6, 2016, lawyers will no longer subject themselves to the current process and hereby serve notice of boycott of all courts by all lawyers until the issues raised here are addressed and resolved.”

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