COVID-19: S-Court approves virtual hearing of cases


... Upgrades ICT facilities as NJC holds first online meeting 


By IJames Ameh


ABUJA---In view of the global lockdown occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, Thursday, okayed virtual hearing of cases to ease backlog of cases in the country. 

The apex court also said it would also hold hold virtual proceedings to determine the backlog of cases pending before it.

In a statement signed by its Director of Press and Information, Dr. Festus Akande, the cpurt said it had started upgrading its Information Technology facilities.

Akande stressed that the National Judicial Council, NJC, which has the responsibility for the appointment and disciplining of Judges, held a two-day virtual meeting which ended Thursday, adding that it was "part of the modern technological platforms being enthroned by the Nigerian Judiciary."

"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," he added. 

The apex court, however, denied what it described as a false report in a section of the media, claiming that its Legal e-mail platform has been abandoned..

Akande said, "I wish to state in clear terms that this report, from all indications, was made in bad fate as our Legal e-mail has been fully functional since its inauguration in 2018; and has been serving the purpose for which it was created. 

"The true motive behind this misleading story is yet to be ascertained. It will be recalled that the Nigeria Legal e-mail System was officially inaugurated by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen, rtd, on July 18, 2018. 

"The sole aim of this platform is to enable all the counsel that appear in Supreme Court to have valid e-mail Addresses with a Proof -Of- Service wherein they could easily be served hearing notices and judgment notices.

"Interestingly, over the years, lawyers have been registering for the Legal e-mail System in line with the terms of the platform. 

"It is necessary to state that in Supreme Court, since July 2018, it has been a mandatory pre-requisite for filing of appeals at the Court’s Registry. 

"Thus all lawyers must file with their Legal e-mail addresses on their documents. 

"A key component of the Legal email process is for the appellant and respondent lawyers to be available on the Legal email Platform so that they could both be served their hearing notices through the email with a Proof -Of - -Service. 

"However, since the backlog of appeals currently being heard in Supreme Court are those of 2008, which predate the 2018 inauguration, 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. 

"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."