Charming, brilliant and unassuming ‘Funmi Asaolu is Presiding Judge at the Justice Court, Nigeria. In this exclusive interview with FirstNigeriaTV’s Ojomo, Olusegun Adebambo, she speaks on public appraisal of the court’s activities, its strength and challenges and other issues.
*The Justice Court has gained popularity and acceptance as a way of obtaining justice and settling disputes in Nigeria. Can you tell us more about the Justice Court?
The Justice Court is a televised courtroom reality show that uses Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process to resolve disputes on small claim civil matters, typical issues facing our society on daily basis such as breach of contract, breach of trust, matrimonial or paternity issues, tenancy issues, etc. The matters are real life cases, and the judgements are binding on the parties in dispute. The court admits cases across Nigeria from people that willingly accept to have their disputes aired on television, taking advantage of the mediation process. Beyond granting justice to parties in dispute, the Justice Court promotes a platform that encourages social justice and legal edutainment. ADR process complements the traditional court system and helps to decongest their cause lists. Also, citizens that cannot afford the service of a lawyer are able to seek and get justice free of charge from the Justice Court. Parties that are not resident in Lagos, even if outside of Nigeria have the opportunity to join our court sessions virtually, for example through Zoom. To file a lawsuit at the Justice Court, the plaintiff will submit his / her case through the court’s website: www.thejusticecourt.com.
*Can you explain its binding nature?
We do have a binding consent judgment between the parties appearing before the Justice Court. This is enforceable through the Lagos State High Court. However, many litigants willingly comply with our judgement, so the enforcement may not be required.
*What kinds of cases can be submitted to the Justice Court?
The Justice Court does not handle criminal cases, the jurisdiction covers only civil matters. Over time, we have observed that majority of cases before the court are matrimonial cases which is a reflection of the marital challenges on-going in our society. When cases of domestic violence are reported, which are criminal offences, the complainants are advised and encouraged to report to the Police for investigation and such matters will be charged by the Police to a court of competent jurisdiction. Due to our societal values and culture, complainants sometimes are not willing to report domestic violence to the Police for the fear of sending their spouses to jail. We need to continue to educate people on the need for consequence management because consequence controls behavior. Unfortunately, the offenders mostly go scot-free and persist in committing the offence.
*What would you consider the challenges you have come across?
When we started showing on Television in 2020, some people were of the opinion that the cases were not real and the judgments not enforceable. Over time, people have come to realize that the courtroom show is not a Nollywood drama. The cases are real and the judgements are binding.
In the recent times, we have seen lots of unauthorized uploads of our cases on various social media accounts, some were even reportedly asking for money from litigants to submit their cases. We have continued to reiterate that submission of cases to the Justice Court is free and it is through the court’s website. Cases should be submitted directly by the complainants. No payment is required.
It is very challenging to handle hundreds of cases being submitted on daily basis by Nigerians. While we appreciate the trust and vote of confidence from the public, the reality is that the number of cases being submitted is overwhelming and some cases may not get the immediate hearing that the litigants desire.
*How would you rate the impact of the Justice Court?
Justice Court is the flagship courtroom show in Nigeria. The programme has really helped lots of Nigerians that were cheated to get justice in a timely manner. Some marriages have been restored after going through our mediation and sometimes, the Judge recommends counselling and anger management classes that are paid for by the court. Some paternity disputes have been resolved with the cost of DNA tests paid by the court. The court has provided financial support to some litigants that made wrong choices due to their pitiable financial situations. Also, some well-meaning Nigerians, home and abroad, have through the court supported some of the litigants.
We continue to receive feedback from lots of viewers that the content is very educative, helping them to be better informed on the position of the law. So, they can now make better decision on issues.
We are amazed at the tremendous goodwill the Justice Court is enjoying from our fans and viewers across the world. Justice Court YouTube channel has viewership from all over the globe, including America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and other African countries.
The production company: Avonix Media Productions Limited, the legal team, and every member of the Justice Court team are repositioning to continue to deliver quality and very educative court sessions to our teaming viewers. We appreciate you all and special thanks to those who have provided support to the litigants, helping them to stay out of trouble. God bless you more.
Funmilayo Asaolu, presiding Judge of the Justice Court graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile- Ife, Osun State with an LL. B degree in 1989 and thereafter attended Nigerian Law School where she was called to the Nigerian Bar as Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. She is a Certified Mediator, also certified for online dispute resolution with Lagos Multi-door Courts, ODR Europe and Quallo Mediation and ADR Professional Resources (U.S.A).
Funmilayo Asaolu has over three decades of legal practice with extensive experience in litigation and alternative dispute resolution. She commenced her career during NYSC with the Federal Ministry of Justice as a State Counsel, moved into private practice and worked as a senior member in several blue-chip law firms including Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) & Co, Layi Babatunde (SAN) & Co, Dele Ogedengbe & Co, Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN) & Co, as a partner at L’avocat LP and Funmi Asaolu & Co.
She is a member of Association of Professional Negotiators and Mediators – APNM, a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultant-Nigeria (IMC-Nigeria) and a Certified Management Consultant (C.M.C) by the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI). She is resourceful, meticulous, organized and systematic. Her diligence and capacity to retrieve information within record time are impressive. She is analytical in thinking and has an appetite for problem-solving, a fundamental decision driver.
Funmilayo Asaolu is a member of Ogbomoso First Community Initiative, a Socio-Cultural Organisation that provides empowerment program for the less privileged, engages in the fight against drug and illicit substance abuse with an existing Drug Rehabilitation Centre at Ogbomoso, Oyo-State, Nigeria which caters for the rehabilitation of people who abuse drugs.
She relaxes by playing golf, watching reality shows, reading and dancing.