By Leslie Olutayo Nylander, SAN
A few months ago at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown I suggested that it was time judgments be delivered digitally by media such as zoom.
The recent destruction of our Courts is obviously going to put the administration of Justice back several months.
I feel for my colleagues. Our stress levels have just been increased many times over.
Many of our Honourable Judges currently have no Court rooms to work. Beyond that, in many instances, no case files or exhibits folders are to be found. Many part heard matters might have to start de novo.
I had little experience of this about 2003/4 when two High Courts at Igbosere got burnt. My matter was in one of them before Honourable Justice Oke (as she then was) and the Court’s file for my matter was lost. For the partial burning of the Court room, the renovation took about six months.
As for files, I suggested to the Court and we got an order from the Court that Counsel should liaise with each other to reconstitute the Court’s file including the oral evidence already given.
The reconstitution was done within a short time and trial continued.
Reconstitution can be tricky if Counsel do not agree on the oral evidence adduced.
Many have said that a lot has to change. Change starts with us. We lawyers have a proclivity for arguments and confrontation.
We as Counsel also have to be mature and cooperate with and assist the Courts to get back on their “feet”.
The oral evidence in many Courts are recorded by the stenographer .
It is high time the recording of evidence is stored or backed up digitally, in the Cloud .
Also documents to be tendered can be uploaded with the processes filed. At the Case management stage originals can be sighted by the Court.
Also those exhibits that parties have agreed can be admitted would be marked as such.
The contested admission of other documents can be dealt with at trial. … and whether tendered or rejected can be uploaded digitally by Counsel.
This is a time for healing for Lagos State and other parts of the Country but given the vicissitude of fortunes, it is axiomatic that the more our Courts become digital and less reliant on paper, the safer they will be particularly in times of turmoil and rioting.