Alliance Regulation agency, a industrial legislation agency, final week organised a Webinar the place authorized consultants critically examined the inevitability, constitutionality and suitability of digital court docket proceedings in Nigeria.
The lead speaker, Justice Inyang Ekwo, of the Federal Excessive Courtroom, gave a perspective from the Bench and submitted that digital court docket proceedings had change into inevitable, not solely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but additionally as a result of that was the place the way forward for court docket proceedings lay.
Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN) spoke from the angle of utilizing digital proceedings in arbitration. She identified that arbitrators had used digital proceedings lengthy earlier than COVID-19 pandemic and clearly distinguished between on-line hearings and digital hearings.
In her view, legal professionals, particularly these in litigation, have to reap the benefits of the large prospects that digital court docket proceedings current. This can guarantee they not must take dangerous journeys from one a part of the nation to the opposite to look in varied courts.
“Nigeria ought to look past COVID-19 and leap on the alternatives that digital proceedings provide as judges really confessed that they’d a greater view of witnesses throughout digital proceedings. Though there would all the time be infrastructural challenges, like energy outages, web connectivity, and so on. Such may very well be tackled subsequently.’.
Nevertheless, Prof Fidelis Oditah QC (SAN) expressed the view that legal professionals should be able to shift from the same old challenges and recurrent complaints of breaching constitutional provisions. Nigerian legal professionals are too obsessive about the availability of Part 36(5) of the 1999 Structure that stipulates that each one court docket proceedings should be held in public , however I don’t share that view.
He additional famous that different challenges included lack of cooperation amongst judges, legal professionals, litigants and court docket officers, leading to extreme delays. Accordin to him, judges have allowed themselves to be handicapped by their refusal to train their full powers in case administration.
Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) divided his submissions into three segments – what can we do? Notion of what a court docket must be; and the way come we’re coping with digital proceedings?
He said that there was a preponderance of opinions that court docket proceedings in any respect ranges ought to go digital. He additional expressed shock that Nigerians have continued to bicker over the thought when it was clear that’s the one solution to go now.
Citing examples from Indonesia, Singapore and Kenya, he concluded that, with digital proceedings, circumstances would transfer sooner and the variety of awaiting trial inmates could be vastly diminished.
Pinheiro additional famous that Observe Instructions which information digital proceedings had been really constitutional. That’s: no matter shouldn’t be expressly prohibited within the Structure is impliedly permitted.
Wonikoko (SAN) submitted that there was little doubt that Nigeria has all the pieces it takes to make sure that digital proceedings change into entrenched in our justice supply system.
From one other jurisdiction got here a perspective supplied by Mr. Yash Kulkami QC. He identified that for years he had been conducting arbitral proceedings internationally nearly and with very passable outcomes. He inspired members to think about the assorted portals accessible for digital proceedings and select one of the best and most dependable. He steered that the Zoom App works effectively in most jurisdictions.
On tendering written paperwork throughout digital proceedings, Kulkami mentioned “a choose should have a fore data of such written doc, together with the opposite events.”
The webinar famous that there have been two circumstances on the Supreme Courtroom difficult the constitutionality of digital proceedings. Most agreed that, regardless of this, Nigeria ought to proceed with digital proceedings.