commencement of civil action in the court of record of anglophone Cameroon
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This study looks at the commencement of civil action in the court of record of anglophone Cameroon. Civil practice in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon is based essentially on the Supreme Court Civil Procedure Rules CAP 211, enacted by the Attorney General of the then Eastern Nigeria according to powers delegated to him under the Eastern Nigerian High Court Law CAP 6.
The problem identified in this research is the judicial delays in the administration of justice, a weak judiciary system with little or no independence, lacunas in the available laws, lack of human and material resources to administrative and political interference.
These problems were compounded by the remarkable and constant transfer and appointment of civil law magistrates to preside cases in Anglophone Cameroon courts, a system they know little about.
Generally, this research seeks to critically examine the commencement of civil action in the court of record in Anglophone Cameroon. Specifically, the research discusses the institutions and parties involved in civil action litigations and the various modes of commencing a civil action in Anglophone Cameroon.
The method used in this research is a qualitative research method that involves primary and secondary data collection.
As a result of the irregularities and delay in the commencement of a civil action, it is recommended that there is the need to move away from unclear procedural rules to justice, unclear procedural rules have led to irreconcilable judgments emanating from the courts
1.1 Background of the study
The unique legal system of Cameroon is reminiscent of its colonial past. After the First World War that led to the defeat of the Germans in 1916 in Cameroon and the end of the war in 1918, and following the Paris Peace Settlement in 1919, Cameroon was partitioned between Britain and France because of their role in the ousting of Germany.
France took four-fifth of the territory while Britain one-fifth.
Following the creation of the League of Nations in 1920, France and Britain managed Cameroon as a mandated territory of the League of Nations. As a result of the failure of the League of Nations, because it could not prevent the outbreak of the Second World War, the United Nations (UN) was formed in 1945 and Cameroon became a UN trusteeship territory.
The French administered then East Cameroon by introducing the Civil Law while the English introduced the Common Law in what was then known as West Cameroon. After independence, these two legal systems have been maintained with little or no modifications.
Thus, Cameroon is said to have a bi-jural legal system with Common Law practised in today’s North West and South West Regions (former West Cameroon) and Civil Law in the rest of the country (former East Cameroon).
The courts in Anglophone Cameroon have thus adopted a purely Common Law system and consequently, just like Nigeria, they apply the civil procedure rules in a civil action in their courts.
That is why civil practice in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon is based essentially on the Supreme Court Civil Procedure Rules CAP 211, enacted by the Attorney General of the then Eastern Nigeria according to powers delegated to him under the Eastern Nigerian High Court Law CAP 61. Nigeria has amended these rules several to adapt them to current developments. Regrettably, Anglophone Cameroon still applies these rules as it inherited them.
Despite the none harmonization, problems abound as a result of the different historical and cultural backgrounds of the two peoples that came together in 1961 to form a union aimed at living together. Magistrates of purely civil law background who work in Anglophone Cameroon have made matters worst by disregarding the procedure in Common Law jurisdictions.
The hierarchical structure of courts in Cameroon plays a key role in the administration of justice. The promulgation of Law No. 2006/015 of 29th December 2006 on Judicial Organization as amended changed a lot of things.
Based on this amendment, a Common Law Section was opened at the Supreme Court to cure the injustices witnessed by Common Law jurisdictions of the North West and Southwest Regions.
Before the amendment, it was very difficult for appeals from the English regions to survive legal technicalities, given that most of the justices at the Supreme Court were French-speaking and Civil Law oriented. In other words, substantive justice, a spirit of the Common Law was totally absent.
The ordinary courts which entertain civil actions are organized into the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal, Lower Courts for Administrative Litigations, Lower Audit Courts (not yet operational), High Courts, Courts of First Instance, and Customary Courts.
The impact of the judicial and legal officers (magistrates), the registries and auxiliaries of justice (judicial police, lawyers, and bailiffs) as well as the available institutions and mode of commencement of civil action in the administration of justice in Cameroon shall be our main focus in this work.
We shall zoom into the legal system of Cameroon to explain why despite the availability of a legal framework and human and material resources, there are still problems.
1.2 Statement of the problem
There are a series of problems blocking the administration of justice in Cameroon. These problems which caused wanton judicial delays in the administration of justice range from a weak judiciary system with little or no independence, lacunas in the available laws, lack of human and material resources to administrative and political interference.
These problems were compounded by the remarkable and constant transfer and appointment of civil law magistrates to Anglophone Cameroon to practice in a system they know little about. Despite numerous legitimate complaints, the situation was rather worsened. More and more magistrates were transferred to eliminate the Common Law subsystem.
This long practice and the gross violation of human rights prompted Common Law lawyers to go on a strike action that has resulted in what is called the Anglophone crisis. Since the outbreak of the crisis, many things have gone wrong including non-respect of procedure and delays. It is based on the foregoing that this researcher decided to embark on this legal journey to discover the causes of these problems and the way forward.
1.3 Research questions
This research seeks to answer the following questions:
1.3.1 General research question
- Are there any hindrances in the commencement of civil action in the court of record in Anglophone Cameroon?
1.3.2 Specific research questions
- What institutions and parties are involved in civil action litigations?
- What are the various modes of commencing a civil action in Anglophone Cameroon?
- How effective are laws and institutions in the administration of justice in a civil action?
- What policy recommendations can be made to address the problem raised?
1.4 Objectives of the study
The objectives are divided into general and specific.
1.4.1 General objective
The goal of this research is to critically examine the commencement of civil action in the court of record in Anglophone Cameroon.
1.4.2 Specific objectives
- To discuss the institutions and parties involved in civil action litigations.
- To examine the various modes of commencing a civil action in Anglophone Cameroon.
- To assess the effectiveness of laws and institutions in the administration of justice in a civil action.
- To make policy recommendations that can address the problem.