Court bars Lagos from privatising probate
A Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said he has secured an order of interim injuction from a Lagos State High Court, stopping the Lagos State Government from going ahead with any plan to privatise the probate arm of the state high court.
A statement by the lawyer on Friday said Justice A.M. Lawal of the Tarfawa Balewa Square Division of the high court granted the order following an ex parte application moved by him to the effect.
The probate court deals with issues relating to wills and properties belonging to deceased persons.
At the instance of Adegboruwa, Lawal was said to have restrained the Lagos State Government and its agents “from removing, excising, privatising, taking away, outsourcing or taking over the functions and powers conferred on the High Court of Lagos State, in relation to probate matters, pending the hearing and final determination of the motion on notice.”
The judge also reportedly barred the Lagos State House of Assembly from making, enacting, considering or deliberating upon or taking any action towards the privatisation of the probate arm of the state high court.
Adegboruwa said he made the move after he got the wind of the plan by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, acting in concert with the House of Assembly, to commercialise or outsource the probate arm of the state high court to private managers.
Claiming that the probate is a major part of his practice, Adegboruwa told Lawal that if the Lagos State Government was not stopped from outsourcing the probate to private managers, he would lose clients and be shut out of business.
The lawyer, who noted that the probate court had always been under the authority of the Chief Judge of the state, argued further that taking it over was tantamount to the executive usurping the power of the judiciary or meddling in its independence.
Joined in the action as respondents are the Lagos State Government, the state Attorney General, the House of Assembly and the Chief Registrar of the High Court.
In the affidavit filed in support of the action, Adegboruwa said, “On several occasions, I have applied as a legal practitioner on behalf of my numerous clients to the Probate Division of the High Court of Lagos State, for the grant of letters of administration and wills and other related matters.
“Thus, matters, issues and disputes that relate to probates is one of my core area and as such any legislation, law, policies of the state that may likely impact negatively on the administration of probates will affect my practice as a legal practitioner.”
The plaintiff said he knew for a fact that sometime last year, the Lagos State Government and the House of Assembly mooted the idea of passing a bill to pave the way for the outsourcing of the probate arm of the state high court and that recently the respondents had started taking further steps to give effect to the plan.
He said, “In this regard, clandestine meetings are being held, documents being circulated, without carrying me along with other stakeholders and those likely to be affected by this new policy.”