Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Muhammad, to prevail on judges in the country to “hear urgent applications via Skype or Zoom during the lockdown”.
Following the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria, courts were directed to shut down until the pandemic was brought under control by government.
But encouraging judges to embrace technological tools to attend to cases during this lockdown period, Falana in a letter to the CJN said, “Since the Federal Government has relaxed the lockdown by allowing markets, shops and stalls selling food and groceries to open to customers between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm daily, the National Judicial Council ought to review the suspension of court sittings to enable them attend to urgent matters to ensure that thousands of people who are either awaiting trial or under investigation are not subjected to unlawful detention.
“The review has become necessary in view of the fact that motions for the bail of many criminal suspects and applications to secure the enforcement of the fundamental right to personal liberty of other detainees are pending in several courts in all the states of the federation and in the federal capital territory.
“In addition, the return dates in respect of several ex parte orders made by magistrates for the remand of a number of criminal suspects which have since expired are due to be quashed or renewed to extend time for further investigation.
“More so that the heads of the various courts are vested with the power to designate judges and magistrates to attend to urgent matters in accordance with the laws establishing such courts.
“However, in order to observe the social distancing directive, we suggest that arrangements be made for judges to hear urgent applications via Skype or Zoom.”
Already, that strategy had been adopted in Kenya where 4,800 prisoners had been released by judges after hearing their cases through Skype and Zoom, a report by CNN said.
“We prioritised getting a lot of people out of prison, especially petty offenders. Those who are in prison for a short term and those who have been there for a long time but have just about six months and below to go,” Anne Amadi, Chief Registrar of the judiciary in Kenya, told CNN.
“As of Friday last week, we managed to decongest the prison by about 4800 inmates from different parts of the country.
“All our 39 high court stations have released people. Most of them, a good number, through Skype or Zoom,” she added.