By: Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.

It was innovation ,dexterity and path finding on display as the Nosa Edo Osagie Led NBA Benin Ĺaw Week Organizing Committee ,blazed the trail by showcasing the First Ever Online Law Week/Conference of any NBA Entity whether Local or National any where in Nigeria.

The Week which was all compressed into a one day affair , commenced with the opening remarks by the Chairman of the Organizing Committee-Nosa Edo-Osagie and the opening speech by the Chief Host -Lion himself-the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Benin Branch-the Lion Bar ,Prince Collins Benson Ogiegbaen A.I.C.M.C. He thanked attendees for coming and he opined that the Branch has observed all the Requisite NCDC Protocols for the physical attendees, that attended the Law Week .

The Brochure for the Law Week is a Collector’s Item aside containing Information on SANs of Edo State Extraction and those Practising in Edo State ,names of all Court of Appeal Judges , it has Information on all Registrars ,Bailiffs and Officials of all Courts within the Jurisdiction of the Branch ,including those of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal,among other information.

The Chairman of the Occasion-the Honourable,the Chief Judge of Edo State ,My Lord ,The Hon Justice Esther Amenaghanwon Edigin ,FICMC used the occasion to highlight some fledging areas of Law and Practice and the need for the Bar to pay close attention to them to meet up with the changing World .

The Key Note Address was delivered by the ebullient and astute Olumiide Akpata Esq.,a Presidential Aspirant for the Presidency of the Nigerian Bar Association, via the Zoom Conferencing Platform , who delivered effortlessly a well researched and thought provoking address ,enjoining, Lawyers to among other things prepare for the evolving world we find themselves by developing their skills and following global trends on Legal Practice .The Keynote was well received,both by those present and those who watched live Online Vide the Zoom Platform, Face Book Live and YouTube Live .

The First Session which was on the State of Insecurity in Nigeria ,was chaired by a Former Chairman of the Branch -N.P. Osifo holding forth ,for the Attorney General of Edo State ,Prof. Yinka Omorogbe-who later came and gave her perspective on the issue .

The Lead Speaker on the issue,a Core Bar Man-Bright Ojeziele Esq.-the Officer-In-Charge of Legal Matters at the AIG Zone 5 Headquarters, Benin City , of the Nigeria Police ,expounded on the issue and Harped on collective policing with intelligence gathering that is Community Based.

The First Discussant Dele Igbinedion Esq.,expoused on Human Rights Protection and Observance and deprecated the impunity exhibited by State Security Agencies saying, that itself breeds insecurity, using the alleged unlawful execution of the Founder of the Boko Haram.Sect,Mohammed Yusuf as a stand point. He also condemned the mobilisation culture in the Police , saying the Police should stop the culture of arresting before investigating saying it runs against logic and law .

The Second Discussant Martin’s Omo-Ihekpe Esq., emphasized on modern policing methods stating that physical policing with out policing aids like forensics, deployment of profound Technology, keeping of a National Forensic Database happens only in Nigeria,as the rest of the World has since moved on.

The Attorney General of Edo State and Commissioner of Justice said security could be better handled if we all played our part saying the Edo State Government is doing it’s best in tackling insecurity in the State,including diligent Prosecutions of cases in Court against alleged Offenders .

The Session on Virtual Court Sitting was Chaired by My Lord,the Honourable ,the Chief Judge of Edo State ,the Hon. Justice E.A. Edigin FICMC,who incidentally ,a day before issued a Practice Direction allowing Virtual Court Sittings in Courts in Edo State , on the Agreement of the Court and Counsel,while still allowing orthodox Court Sitting,side by Side .My Lord dwelt on the need for Lawyers to prepare for the new normal ,allaying the fears of stakeholders that Virtual Court Sitting is not Public.My Lord stated that there is nothing more public than Virtual Court Sitting,as it can be accessed by all Members of the Public online .

What better way to talk about the Effect of Virtual Conferencing on the Judicial System in Nigeria, than by Virtual Conferencing. That was exactly what Emmanuel Gbahabo Esq., a renowned Tech. Lawyer and a Partner in Templars ,a Law Firm in Lagos ,did when he spoke from the confines of his Office via the Zoom Platform, to audiences world wide,who were watching live on Video Conferencing and Live Streaming Platforms and also to an audience at the Justice Constance Momoh Hall of the NBA Benin Bar House. The Lead Discussant dissected the intractable challenges of Virtual Court Sitting which he said included but was not limited to some times the absence of end to end encryption that borders on cyber security, local challenges of data and power ,lack of infrastructure and the likes .He also doused the assertion of the perceived illegality of Virtual Court Sitting ,stating that it is only a Judicial Pronouncement by the Supreme Court on the Matter ,that will ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the legality of Virtual Court Sitting .He also stated how documents can be tendered in a Virtual Trial by the use of the share button.He asked would be participants in a Virtual Trial to test their Technology before hand by doing a mock session to ascertain lapses and fix same before the real Trial.

My Lord, the Hon Justice Peter Akinhiro ,of the Edo State Judiciary himself an expert in Tech. Issues ,explained that those talking about the illegality of Virtual Court Sitting have not cited any Authority to buttress their submission . He reiterated the assertion of the Chief Judge of Edo State earlier made in My Lord’s opening Statement that there is nothing more public than Virtual Court Sitting, where any Member of the public any where in the World can join Proceedings Online.My Lord, asked Members of the Bar to be prepared as electronic Filing of Processes in Court in Edo State will soon commence in an improved Edo State Judiciary Website . My Lord also stated that the demeanour of witnesses in a Virtual Court Trial can even be more ascertainable as Virtual proceeding can be recorded and the Presiding Judge will have multiple opportunities of weighing the Demeanour Withnesses from the recorded proceedings,before Judgment .He also said demeanour is not everything as demeanour can be contrived .

In his Presentation, My Lord ,The Hon. Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele asked that the Legal Community should make haste slowly in deploying Virtual Court Sitting as it could be set aside by the Supreme Court ,as was recently done in the Orji Uzor Kalu’s Case which has put Section 367 (8),of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act,2015 in peril.He also raised doubts whether Judges can adequately ascertain the demeanour of withnesses online and that Physical Court Hearings give the Judge a bird eye’s view of the demeanour of witnesses.He also stated that even in the United States ,they do not deploy virtual Court Sitting for Criminal Trials ,stating that they even have a jury system that re-enforces the verdict process .

Other Speakers at the Session, including the Attorney General of Edo State,Prof. Yinka Omorogbe and Tim Obamedo Woghiren Esq.,both respectively asked for us to prepare for the new normal as Virtual Court Sittings has come to stay and that we should look at the issue of whether Virtual Court Sitting can properly ascertain the demeanour of witnesses .

The high point of the Occasion was the conferment of Awards on Guests present. The Chief Judge of the State ,the Hon. Justice Esther A. Edigin FICMC,bagged the NBA Benin Life Time Achievement Award. Others who bagged the NBA Benin Life Time Achievement Awards were two former Chairmen of the Lion Bar-Chief Henry Oghogho Ogbodu SAN and Nosa Peter Osifo,respectively .

Other Awardees,who were awarded the NBA Benin Merit Award were the presiding Judge of the Criminal Division of the Edo State High Court -Justice Efe Ikpomwoba and Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele,who recently gave the dissenting Judgment in the Kogi State Governorship Tribunal in Lokoja,Kogi State .Other Judges present ,aside the Awardees and Discussants at the Occasion were My Lord,The Hon. Joseph Itsebaga Acha,My Lord ,the Hon. Justice Morrison Ighodaro ,My Lord,the Hon.Justice Daniel Irowa Okungbowa and My Lord, the Hon. Justice V.O.A. Oviawe .Also Present was the Chief Registrar of the Edo State Judiciary, William Aziegbemhin Esq and the full compliments of all the Deputy Chief Registrars .

The Ceremony came to a crescendo with the Closing remarks by the Chairman of the Law Week Organizing Committee, Nosa Edo-Osagie Esq.and the votes of thanks by the Lion Secretary, the Secretary of the NBA Benin Branch-the Lion Bar,the articulate Pius Idemudia Oiiwoh,AICMC. .

NewtonSax ,a saxophonist, serenaded the Conferees to Vintage Songs as they had a lavish refreshment thereafter.

The programme was anchored by my humble self-Douglas Ogbankwa Esq., and the Sam Mac Ebi Esq.,Lawyer and Ace Broadcaster .It was all pomp and ceremony all through!

About the Author:

Douglas Ogbankwa Esq., is the Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Benin Branch- the Lion Bar .