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Group urges remote court hearings amid Covid-19 pandemic

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The Justice Reform Project (JRP) has called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad to adopt remote court hearings to ensure continued administration of justice in the face of Covid-19 pandemic.

The chairman, governing board of JRP, Mrs. Olufunke Adekoya (SAN) in a letter addressed to Muhammad, lamented that the administration of justice system has been significantly affected by the pandemic as court proceedings have been placed on hold as a result of the restriction on movements.

Mrs. Adekoya stated that the importance of a functional judiciary at all times cannot be overstated and even more in these times to maintain law and order.

During this period of considerable restraints on movement, there have been several occurrences, which call for adjudication by the judiciary through courts and show the desperate need for the judiciary to continue playing its constitutional role despite the raging pandemic.

She said the situation provides a unique opportunity for considerable improvement of the justice system’s administration in Nigeria.

“We recommend that your lordship considers the adoption of remote court hearings to ensure the continued administration of justice in the face of the pandemic and an improved dispensation thereafter.

“The judiciary in several countries including the United Kingdom, the Republic of Kenya and Uganda have exploited legal, financial and technological resources to ensure hearings can be conducted remotely despite the movement restrictions in place,” she said.

She noted that although the CJN’s circular dated April 6, 2020, permitted trial on matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound according to extant laws, the absence of publicly available guidelines to access courts and the movement restrictions imposed by various levels of governments ensure that the justice administration system is in effect grounded.

“We urge your lordship to consider issuing immediate Court Directions and Protocols to ensure continued administration of justice in the face of the pandemic,” she pleaded.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ikorodu Branch, Mr. Bayo Akinlade has called on all NBA Branch Chairmen to support the clamour for a fully digitalized court system.

Akinlade said: “I support this call because it’s ridiculous to shut down the courts at a time like this. We need the justice system more than ever and not just the skeletal services being provided at the moment.

“A lot can be achieved via the internet and using our phones. This is why I will also write to the Heads of Courts demanding for the full use of technology in our courts”

Mr. Akinlade noted that if the courts do not adopt these measures as suggested by the JRP, then the citizens should know those responsible for causing the problems within our justice delivery system.

“I am waiting for the reaction of the CJN and the Chief Judge of Lagos to this issue. If their lordships reject these proposals; then the people should know who is responsible for the delay we experience in our judiciary. It will also explain why corrupt practices continue to thrive within the judiciary,” Akinlade said.


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