Supreme Court Plans Virtual Proceedings

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

As the country continues to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court yesterday hinted of plans to deploy technology in the handling of the huge backlog of appeals before it.

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad had exactly one month ago ordered temporary suspension of court proceedings across the country as part of measures to curtail the spread of the pandemic.

The suspension was later made indefinite two weeks later following the lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states by the federal government.

While denying a media report about the alleged non-functioning of its e-mail address, the Supreme Court said plans are ongoing to upgrade its information technology facilities to the extent of holding virtual proceedings.

The Director of Press and Information at the Supreme Court, Dr. Festus Akande, who made the disclosure in a statement made available to judicial reporters, said that the move is aimed at leveraging on the emerging options at the court’s disposal to deliver on its mandate so that the Justice sector does not suffer any major setback before resumption of normal court sittings.

“There is need to reiterate our initial position that in view of the current lockdown of most states of the federation and the FCT, as a result of the ravaging global coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court has started upgrading its Information Technology facilities with a view to holding virtual proceedings within the shortest possible time. Even with the lockdown, the Court has been sitting and giving judgments, particularly for cases that are time-bound.

“The virtual meeting of the National Judicial Council on Wednesday and Thursday, April 22, and April 23, 2020, is part of the modern technological platforms being enthroned by the Nigerian Judiciary and we hope to leverage on the emerging options at our disposal to deliver on our mandate so that the Justice sector does not suffer any major setback even before we resume our normal life”, the statement read in part.

On the report that the Legal E-mail platform of the Supreme Court has been abandoned, the apex court spokesman, who noted that the report was made in bad fate, said that the Legal E-mail of the Supreme Court has been fully functional since its inauguration in 2018; and has been serving the purpose for which it was created.

He however explained that the Supreme Court only deploy the manual method of service in the backlog of appeals of filed before 2018 when the e-court system was inaugurated, adding that many of the lawyers involved have not yet registered on the platform.

“This leaves the Court with no option at the moment than to manually serve the respective chambers and also by sending text messages to their mobile phones in the interim.

“Plans are ongoing, possibly to have the relevant laws in place, to ensure that any lawyer who has not registered for the Legal Email will not have his appeal listed for hearing at the Supreme Court. This will certainly make it compelling for all lawyers to align with the modern technology platform that has been made available by the Supreme Court to fast-track the dispensation of justice.

“It is equally instructive that technology implementation requires a lot of sacrifices and painstaking effort which we all must be ready to make. Even though its implementation might be slow, there is hope that we will soon fly the entire Nigerian Judiciary on the wings of modern Information and Communication Technology”, he said.