Lawyers in Nigeria have described the virtual proceedings, which commenced in Nigeria for the first time on Monday in Lagos, as revolutionary for the Nigerian legal system.

The first virtual session held at the Ikeja High Court in Lagos when one Olalekan Hameed was sentenced to death by hanging for a December 1, 2018 murder of Mrs Jolasun Okunsanya, a 70-year-old woman. 
Justice Mojisola Dada delivered the pioneering judgment via video conferencing platform, Zoom. 

Speaking with SaharaReporters on Tuesday, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said the move will help in making the administration of criminal justice in the country more efficient. 

He said, "The proceedings of the Lagos High Court conducted online otherwise known as remote courts is revolutionary and the same thing has happened today at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja where three courts also sat using virtual technology. 
"So, we commend their lordship because this will assist in achieving smooth and effective administration of justice.

"It will tackle the hydra-headed problem of delay in the judiciary and help in eliminating corruption because e-files will make it more transparent for litigants and lawyers to pay their money directly into the.purse of the judiciary rather than the current system whereby court official have become more like businessmen at the expense of Justice. 
"So, to that extent, it is quite commendable."

Adegboruwa, however noted that the process comes with its own challenges, which must be addressed if the practice must achieve meaningful gains in the administration of criminal justice.  See Also Legal Nigeria Holds First Online Court Sitting In Lagos, Man Sentenced To Death For Murder

He said, "Beyond the euphoria of virtual sitting, there are fundamental problems that we must look at such as the foundation of the process which has to do with basic requirement to achieve success in virtual proceedings,

"For you to conduct a proceeding online, you must be in an environment that is well lit and conducive which means that there must be regular power supply to be able to give the capacity to participate in such process. For a lawyer conducting such process form their home, it means they have to buy generator and fuel it.

"For litigants, it also has to be the same consequence and for criminal proceedings where people are in custody. 
"Secondly, the problem of data which accompanies GSM in Nigeria. This regime of data subscription whereby just one hour of video viewing will exhaust the data and with no transparent method of ascertaining what you paid for, I doubt that the ordinary litigant in the village, in the hinterland can be part of this type of process.

"Thirdly, is the issue of Internet security. The capacity of fraudsters to hack into sensitive political cases, cases involving husband and wife and custody of children, cases involving distribution of estates of people who could become public figures and then the issue of authenticity of the document uploaded such as C of O, WAEC, univeristy certificates etc. How do we cope in this age of manipulation and photoshop?

"I believe that the foundation has being laid to achieve virtual courts, for us to have capacity to participate in it, there must be a tech savvy gadget such as iPads, laptops and computer that is up to date and can use platforms such as Zoom, Skype of Google.

"The villages don't have this, the indigent person whose land has been taken doesn't have this, the poor man who is seeking justice, the workers who have been dismissed, the person who has been arrested don't have access to all this, so to that aspect, this process is purely elitist."

Monday Ubani, former 3rd Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association, told SaharaReporters that while the move was innovative, the constitution needs to be amended to make room for peculiarities of virtual proceedings.

He said, "It is clearly something that some of us have been advocating for, the deployment of technology in modern day legal practice and we have been having series of lectures for lawyers to prepare for disruptions like this which will happen sooner rather than later and the pandemic has driven it home, it is now a reality.

"The court proceedings in Nigeria may begin to take a different dimension in terms of physical presence. The two events that took place in Borno and Lagos had to do with judgment, we are yet to see a virtual proceeding that encompasses a full trial.

"It is a good prospect that can take away a lot of the difficulties we have been having in legal proceedings in Nigeria such as in matters like divorce. Either of the parties may be abroad and sometimes you have to ask he/her to come back all the way from the UK or the US for the proceeding to take place in Nigeria and the matter is then adjourned for two or three months.

"Adjudication and delivery, quick dispensation of justice in situation where parties have travelled, this technology can bridge that gap and get the witness to give evidence without being physically present.

"There are HOWEVER, limiting factors in the usage and deployment of this technology at this time. We have to deal with some of our statutes, the constitution especially which prescribes that our court proceedings must be accessible by member of the public, if you have virtual proceedings, you have excluded a large percentage of the people contrary to the provisions of Section 36 of the constitution.

"We need to amend our procedure rules that never contemplated proceedings like this and make adequate proceedings for some of the things that would come up during virtual proceedings."

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