Friday, 8 May 2020

Nig lawyer wins legal suit via online court session, says Covid-19 will deliver the future


F. Baba Isa Esq. 
8 May 2020 

Nigerian lawyer/attorney based in Abuja the federal capital territory, FCT has reportedly won a legal suit through participation in a virtual court session. He is one of the first set of legal practitioners in Nigeria to participate in an online court session. 

F. Baba Isa popularly referred to as FBI resorted to a software-based video conferencing application called Zoom to participate in the online litigation process. Eventually, he won the suit but decried his inability to celebrate his victory because of medical precautions surrounding Covid-19. 

His words, 'Wow! Today, I made history as one of the first crop of lawyers to participate in an online court session in Nigeria.

'Judgement in a divorcé case I am handling was delivered today via zoom... I sat at home, fully dressed as a lawyer and connected to the courtroom of Honourable Justice O. O. Goodluck of the FCT High Court 4. (ok, let me not lie o, I didn't wear shoes and belt... But I wear everything o, only shoes and belt). And we won. Judgement was delivered in our favour.'

Continuing, Isa while commending the Nigerian judiciary for rising up to the occasion of the challenge posed by Covid-19, said life will never be as usual. But he added that the pandemic will deliver the future of our dreams: 'We commend the judiciary for rising up to the challenge this pandemic has thrown upon all of us. Today's session was good, there is still room for improvement, but it was generally great.

'We know life will never be same again, Covid-19 is making sure of that. However, it is not all gloomy; some of the changes we are being forced to make are indeed good. 

'In spite of all the damage this pandemic is wrecking on the world, Coronavirus will also deliver the future. Get ready for the future; don't be distracted by the present by wishing for the past.

'But how am I supposed to celebrate this victory when I can't go out na?' 

Recall that on Monday 20th April the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami disclosed that there are plans for Nigerian courts to hold virtual proceedings following the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country. 

His words, 'Robust use of technological tools to conduct proceedings including virtual proceedings, this would also enable the justices/judges to preside over matters in their chamber without being physically present in a formal courtroom, parties and their counsel will only connect through teleconference means.

'The way to go in effect is that court proceedings should also be handled in a manner that reduces the number of persons in the courts at any given time.

'Although this requires the movement of suspects from prisons to the courts, all such suspects should be tested, in fact, everyone entering the court premises should be tested to ensure that they are not already positive, thus risking the lives of other people. 
F. Baba Isa Esq. in a Zoom court room session 

'Empowering the institutions of the ACJA, 2015 to commence functioning immediately. 

'The net result will galvanize the judicial sector into rapid mode to fast track trials and release of those who are deserving. Deployment of ICT facilities to fast-track taking evidence from witnesses. Digital platforms such as Skype and Zoom can be used.
'NTA stations across the country can be connected to courts to facilitate taking evidence as witnesses do not have to necessarily be physically present in court.
'Ensuring that court dockets have only few cases per day can reduce the number of persons in courts. So, all the pending judgments should be drafted and concluded during a short period of time. This does not require lawyers to be present.
'Once the judgment is ready, the lawyers should be able to receive them in their email or it should be posted on the court's website for any interested party to download it. This is the way to go and thus provide greater transparency.'

Continuing, Malami hinted 'Criminal charges of minor and non-indictable offences should be summarily tried and sentenced to non-custody penalties. Even in cases where sentenced persons cannot pay their fines, the court should consider other alternative punishments other than a jail term. This can include parole or probationary sentences and, if possible, community service like cleaning public places etc.

'Setting aside special dates and that courts work extra hours to decongest their case files. The 2020 court vacation could be suspended as the COVID 19 lockdown period has provided judges with the much-needed break from official duties. 

'Having courts that are fully IT-compliant in order to fast track the digital recording and production of the record of court proceedings.

'Appointment of more judges and justices, as appropriate. Additional judicial decisions of federal courts are to be created. This will, as a proactive measure, help in decongesting the already loaded court hearing schedules.

'All courts can accept electronic transactions and only receive receipts of payments.

'The way to go in effect, Court Proceedings should also be handled in a manner that reduces the number of persons in the courts at any given time. 

'Although this requires the movement of suspects from prisons to the courts, all such suspects should be tested, in fact everyone entering the court premises should be tested to ensure that they are not already positive, thus risking the lives of other people.'

Obviously, the Post-Covid-19 world will be different from what we used to understand it to be. 





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