By: Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.,
Justice Walter S.C. Onnoghen is a name we will not forget in a hurry for many reasons. One of which is the ease with which My Lord deployed Information Technology in the Administration of Justice at the Supreme Court.One of the ground breaking Achievements of My Lord ,was the posting of the Supreme Court Cause Lists from October to March in the Supreme Court Website and for Bailiffs to send you SMS, if for any reason the Court was not Sitting or even if it was Sitting.
These two innovations are the fulcrum of a seamless Court System ,that will save alot of time ,money or even life .
Scenarios are rife of Lawyers having accidents and dying on the road ,while going to Court only for news to come later that the Court did not even sit!The Life of that Lawyer would have been saved by a 4 naira sms.I humbly and most respectfully urge the Heads of Court in Nigeria to issue Practice Directions insisting that when a Court is not Sitting ,Text Messages should be sent to Lawyers whose Matters are slated for that day .Some Judges ,Magistrates and Presidents are already doing that on their own.It is commendable and it should be replicated by others
As we embrace Virtual Court Sittings ,let us also push for an online, real time posting of Cause Lists ,starting With the setting up of COURT WHATSSAP PLATFORMS ,comprising Registrars of Court,Judges’ Assistants and Leaders of the Bar ,in a way the various Courts Cause Lists can be put in the WhatssAp Platforms ,from where Leaders of the Bar can syndicate same in their Branch WHATSSAP PLATFORMS. Notice that a Court is not Sitting could also be put there for onward transmission to the NBA Branches Platforms.
In this regard, I commend My Lord, the Hon. Justice Helen Morenike Ogunmiwuji (JCA),who initiated the Court of Appeal,Benin Front Desk WHATSSAP PLATFORM comprising Front Desk Officers of the Court of Appeal, Benin, Leaders of the Bar in Branches of the NBA in Edo and Delta States ,OCs Legal of Police Formations in the two States indicated above and High Court Officials from Edo and Delta States ,which has made the business of the Court incredibly easy and open to the timeous Notice of all Stakeholders.I also commend the Head of the Court of Appeal ,Benin Front Desk Unit -Mrs. Tugai and her team for their dilligence ,dedication to duty and Professionalism in this regard .
I humbly urge other Heads of Court in Nigeria to emulate the ground breaking innovation of My Lord ,the Hon. Justice Ogunmiwuju as it is the way to go in this Information Technology Driven Era amidst the COVID-19 Period .
Again ,COVID-19 has shown to us that the Courts should not be crowded .The Days of Putting 20 to 30 Matters on the Cause Lists are gone.Matters should now be put on the Cause Lists only when you are sure ,they are going on.Specific time of the day for Matter ,should be indicated on record and on the Cause Lists . Every one does not need to be in Court by 9am,some can come by 10am,11am,12pm or 1pm as the case may be .They could be a Pre-Hearing Phone Session between the Registrars and Counsel to ascertain whether his or her Matter is going on .Counsel that Knows his Matter is not going on should also inform the Court ,48 hours before Hearing ,so that the Registrar can inform the other Counsel and both parties should agree on a Date.In the same vein ,the Bar Association should also issue a directive to their Members to given to Clients to the effect that payments of Appearance Fees should be by online transfer !We should be going online regarding our Appearance Fees ,just as the Courts go online,else we will be the biggest losers.
Judges,Magistrates, Presidents ,Lawyers and Registrars of Court should also develop themselves on the use of the Zoom and Skype Technologies and learn the observable Protocols in preparation for a hitch free Virtual Court System.
These innovations have become apposite in an increasingly changing world.God forbid that Society should move forward and the Law will be left behind. The Law should actually move ahead, while the Society should catch up
.It is not out of Place for the Courts to have research and development departments that will be the Think Tanks of the Courts in a changing World.
About the Author:
Douglas Ogbankwa Esq is the Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Benin Branch-The Lion Bar .