BY: Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.
The reason Justice is slow in Nigeria, is not just because of the many adjournments sought by Lawyers , it is also because the Judiciary in Nigeria has not emulated their peers the world over, which have moved alongside the technological advancement of Society.
In this 21st Century, Judges in Nigeria take records in long hands ,as if we were in the 19th Century !
There should be a shift to to Online Platforms by using Online PLATFORMS like Zoom and Skype for on line ,real time Court Sittings .Some Judges in the Lagos State Judiciary are holding Hearings via Zoom.The Courts have no reason to shut down this COVID-19 Period,in this technologically Driven Society. We are Lawyers and can use existing IT Infrastructure to hold Hearings and this will even more ascertainable as Court Session will be recorded in audio and video and sent directly to the Lawyers ‘ Social Media Channels.
Court Files are still being moved physically from place ,just as it was from time immemorial.Processes are still being filed physically ,when you can can do that online from the confines of your home or office.
Counsel need to be physically present at all times in Court ,when our peers round the world use tele-conferencing and other Social Media Platforms to conduct the business of Court and direct the Course of Society.
To get a Court to send you an sms if the Court is not Sitting is is difficult cause .
The consequences are dire as sometimes while the Court will not sit , some Counsel will travel very far ,while a few die by Motor Accident on their way to Court.A scenario that would have been averted ,if the the Registrar of Court had just sent a simple sms.
In this regard ,I wish to Commend My Lord ,the Hon. Justice Helen Morenike Ogunwumiju ,the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal Benin Division , who has embraced technology by setting up a Whassap Group of Court Officials and Bar Leaders in My Lord’s Jurisdiction,from where the Cause List for the Week is posted and information whether the Court is Sitting or not and even dates of adjournments are posted timeously.I will also commend the Head of the Front Desk Session of the Court – Mrs. Tugai
,Ovigue Ogbodo and Mr. Ishmael and others ,though are all Lawyers they are internet savvy and relay Information relating to the Court will the speed of light!
I urge other Courts to embrace the Court of Appeal ,Benin as they will also send an SMS to Counsel if the Court is not Sitting .
Financial Autonomy of the Judiciary which is provided for by the Constitution but has not been obeyed by the Executive is paramount in ensuring a technological transformation system in the Judiciary .
For example in Edo State the Judiciary has taken some Staff on training on a file management system that will have the all Court files stored in electronic form. Requisition has been made to the Executive to fund the process but it has not approved till now .why should the Judiciary go cap in hand to the Executive any time they need any thing? Where then is the Independence of the Judiciary?And how can we vounch for the integrity of the Judicial Process ,when the Executive controls the purse and the sword ?In the same Edo State,Officials to man Verbatim recorders have been trained for close to two years now and till now the verbatim recorders have not been purchased /deployed .So why train the Officials to man the verbatim recorders in the first place ?
The Nigerian Judiciary must embrace technology in the following manners:
1.Embrace the E-filing concept.CAC and FIRS have shown that you can file processes on line in a seamless manner.
2.Courts in Nigeria should adopt the verbatim recording system that allow an electronic recording of proceedings.From experience,this will reduce by half the duration of time of conducting cases and give accurate record in Court and stop the controversies of contested record of proceedings.
3.Courts should set up Whatssap Groups of key Court Officials and Bar Leaders.Information posted there on activities of Courts ,which will now be posted by Bar Leaders to their Branch Whatssap Group.
4.Courts should adopt an electronic file management system to make storage of Court documents safe and easier to access.
5.Courts should adopt teleconferencing with time to stop the element of adjournments .Counsel can appear in Court from any where in the World. This is what is applicable in saner climes .
6.Courts should allow electronic devices like laptops,phones etc to be used in Court for research and accessing of Materials,online ,real time .
7.There Should CCTV Camera in every Court to capture proceedings in visuals . Where there is doubt as to what happened in Court It could be reviewed .
8.Courts should have a functional website where Cause List for each day and Judgments/Ruling can be assessed with ease.Phone numbers of Registrars should also be there to be able to reach
9 .The Legal Assistants should all have laptops , just as judgments and rulings are given by the Court , they should draw up the enrolment of Order and enrolment of judgment same day and ensure same is signed by the judge and issued out same day.It should be made compulsory that a judicial Officer should not read a Judgment with out typing and signing same.
This will ensure judgments are got same day to activate the process of a possible Appeal timeously.
We will do better as a Body if all these are put into play.