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Judiciary is underfunded, maligned, says Kazeem

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Immediate past Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem (SAN) has declared that Nigerian judiciary is underfunded and over maligned.

The former chief law officer of Lagos State admitted that although there are still unethical practices by a few judicial officers, the majority are dedicated men and women committed to upholding the tenets of justice and therefore deserve to be robustly supported.

“A situation where the judiciary is constantly being treated as the “poorer” junior brother of the three arms of government is unacceptable and must be corrected. Happily, Lagos State has always been a leader in the welfare of its judiciary but I am sure there is still room for improvement. The next president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) must also be a champion of the cause of the judiciary and a strong defender when they cannot speak,” he stated.

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Kazeem, who stated his support for virtual court hearing maintained that using technology in dispensing justice is an idea whose time has come. The major bone of contention over the legality of remote hearings, he noted, has been about whether virtual or remote court proceedings meet the requirements of Section 36 (3) of our Constitution, which states that court proceedings shall be held in public.

“As you may be aware, the technology that will be used to achieve virtual hearings allows virtual proceedings to be streamed over the internet in real-time or recorded and disseminated online afterwards. By the very nature of the internet, there is nothing in the world we live in now that is more public than information online.

“Therefore, engaging in a lengthy debate over whether virtual proceedings, easily available over the internet, can be considered to be as accessible to the public as a physical courtroom for the purposes of satisfying the principles of open justice under section 36 (3) will, respectfully, only dissipate our energies unnecessarily. It may also cause us to lose sight of the larger issues involved in integrating technology into the fabric of our judiciary in a sustainable way, such that our court system can match or exceed the advances already taking place in the rest of the world.

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“Once the proper infrastructure is installed to ensure that witnesses and suspects are captured and members are able to freely join or view such proceedings, then the requirements of Section 36 (3) will be satisfied. Other issues have been raised about the practicality of virtual proceedings and whether requirements on procedure and evidence can be accommodated in remote proceedings. Such requirements involve the need of the judge to observe closely and clearly the demeanor of witnesses at trial and the need to prevent teleguiding of the witnesses. My response to that is that these are not issues that are insurmountable,” he declared.

He argued that what must be kept in mind at all times is that technology is a tool to be used to implement justice and not to supplant it. He also advised that aspiring leaders to the office of the president of the NBA must possess maturity, humility, a wealth of experience, willingness to embrace technology and a vast network of contacts well beyond his immediate practice zone.

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