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The Court of Appeal made N1.3 million from affidavits in 18 months, between January 2018 and June 2019, an official has said.

The details of the earnings were sent to PREMIUM TIMES in response to a Freedom of Information request.

An affidavit is a written statement from an individual that is sworn on oath to be true. It is issued by the various levels of courts in the Nigerian judiciary, except the Federal High Court which recently excused itself from the exercise.

Each level of the courts fixes its own fee for the issuance of the document.

The disparity in the fees charged by courts for affidavits is a major contributor to the prevalent corruption in the process, checks reveal.

Findings by this newspaper showed that Nigerians pay as much as N2,000 to obtain the document, whereas officially, no court charges more than N700.

The disparity in price also exists between federal courts. The Supreme Court charges N10 for declaration of age affidavit and N300 for anyone that requires a document attachment like filing a motion in court. But many people who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said they had to go through touts who charged them much higher fees to get the affidavits.

The Court of Appeal also charges N300 for the second category of affidavits. However, the payment has to be made through a bank, which charges N157 for the transaction to raise the payment to N457.

An online retrieval reference is also required to conclude the payment process at the appeal court. Most people find it difficult to generate this reference on their own, so they take the option of paying an official N200, taking the procurement fee to about N700.

For the Federal Capital Territory High Court and the Magistrate’s Court which are state courts, the fee for issuance of affidavits used to be N500 until they recently added N200 for the court seal.

Nigerians speak on their experiences

Caroline Edeh who lives in Kuje, a suburb of Abuja, said she realized that she had to patronize touts to obtain an affidavit at the Wuse, Zone 2 Magistrate’s court to save time and get the job done fast.

“I came to town to retrieve my (mobile telephone) line, so I was told to bring an affidavit. I have been here since morning but because I don’t want to pay additional N1000, I joined the queue. But the people who came after me and are willing to pay the touts have done their affidavits and left.”

Halilu Ibrahim, a 40 years old trader, said he patronized a tout he met at the court premises because he felt safe with him.

Asked if he knew he was paying more than he should by patronizing the tout, he said “I don’t know the original price. But since he promised to get me the affidavit without delay, I don’t mind.”

This reporter asked one of the touts, a middle-aged man, why they charge N1000 extra. He said it is because they have to “settle the ogas (referring to the court secretarial officers) and also settle myself.”

An Abuja-based lawyer, Dominic Anyiador, described the new adoption of the judicial seal which attracts an additional N200 as a form of exploitation.

“It is illegal because lawyers and litigants were not sensitized before the introduction of the seal. They just told lawyers and litigants not to file fake affidavits received from all courts before the introduction of the seal for filing of any process,” he said

Mr Anyiador said he believed that court officials collude with the touts for the affidavits.

“I believe you have gone to the High Court in Maitama? You see how organized the ground floor is? If the touts don’t have the backing of the management, you think they will be there? Otherwise, there won’t be a comfortable atmosphere for them to perpetrate and carry out their various activities.”

He said many people patronize the touts because they do not know the process and standard price.

“Mostly, these people patronize the touts out of ignorance. They don’t know the processes. They are quickly waylaid by the touts at the gate, and since they don’t know, they patronize them and at the end of the day they end up spending more because they still tip them. So it is ignorance.”

Accountability

PREMIUM TIMES sent Freedom of Information Requests to various courts that issue affidavits in Abuja to demand how much they have made from the affidavits

Only the Court of Appeal replied to the FOI request.

The head of litigation at the appeal court, R.A. Muhammad, gave a monthly breakdown of the total N1.3 million earned by the court in the 18 months.

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PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the proceeds from the issuance of affidavits are paid into the Single Treasury Account of the federal government.

The Supreme Court, the FCT High Court and the Magistrate’s court refused to respond to the FOI requests sent to them.

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