By Adaeze Iroha
Some lawyers in Lagos on Wednesday called on the state judiciary to invest in training judges, lawyers and judicial staff on virtual court practice.
The lawyers made the call following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the judiciary
The lawyers said that the partial lockdown provided an opportunity for the judiciary to invest in technological training of judicial members.
According to them, there are new ways of doing things around the world and the judiciary has to be equipped to adapt to it in order to make judicial process more effective and efficient.
A Lawyer, Miss Adanma Eze said that the Lagos State Judiciary was at the forefront of judiciary innovations in Nigeria and needed to set a pace for virtual legal practice by first training essential workers in the Judiciary.
According to her, not many lawyers or judges have the knowledge of how to imbibe technology into law practice.
“The older lawyers and judges, especially need to be sensitised and trained on how to use websites, applications and computers to effectively practice.
“The world is changing into a digital place and we must be ready to change with it.
“In my opinion, there is no proceeding in law that cannot be done virtually; including calling witnesses and tendering document.
We just have to be innovative.
“Lagos is a pace setter in judicial matters and I know that if we are able to conquer these setbacks, other states will quickly adopt same.
“Of what use is all the innovation if we the people that are meant to practice it do not know how to utilise it? We need trainings,” she said.
On his part, a Technology Law Expert, Mr Paul Obishai, urged the judiciary to amend the court rules to provide for virtual hearing of court proceedings in addition to the necessary trainings required.
“The challenges which the Lagos State Judicial system faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, is with keeping up with innovation and poor infrastructure to support the innovation.
“I call on the Chief Judge of Lagos State High Court to as a matter of urgency amend the High Court rules to allow for electronic services and virtual hearing of court proceedings.
“I am also urging the Lagos State Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) branch to mobilise lawyers for training on how to apply technology to their practice, particularly for trials and hearing of applications,” Obishai said.
A Corporate Lawyer, Mrs Uchechi Onah, said that virtual court sitting was a revolutionary idea which would come with its own challenges.
She said that the Nigerian constitution provided for trials to be public and courts accessible but if the judiciary were to find a way to make virtual courts so, it would change the course of the Nigerian Legal system.
“The judiciary has to not only train judges and lawyers but they have to provide necessary support to make it accessible to all parties in order to constitute fair hearing.
“Lagos State Government has to partner with NBA to create a sophisticated website for legal practice, sensitise lawyers and train them to deliver proper virtual legal service.
“Lawyers that do not have access to internet and computers for instance, provisions should be made for them,” she said.
Some courts across the nation had commenced virtual court sittings following the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 4, the first virtual court proceedings in Lagos at an Ikeja Division of the High Court, handed down the death penalty on one Olalekan Hameed, charged with murder.
In the judgment delivered via online Zoom Webinar, Justice Mojisola Dada sentenced the convict to death by hanging.