A call for Lawyers to adapt to methodology of virtual hearings — Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba

The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba, has urged lawyers to ensure that they adapt to virtual hearings and keep themselves technologically inclined with requisite facilities during the COVID-19 period

Alogba said this while speaking during a virtual summit organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Commercial Regulatory and Investment Disputes, best practice (CRID-Law Net) and Justice Reform Project (JRP).

“Once counsel are able to adapt to the methodology of virtual hearing, even where a citizen does not have a compliant gadget to partake in this kind of hearing, the lawyer can call him to chambers and he will be able to latch on the facility of the lawyer so the proceedings can commence.

“Everyone is aware of the factors that led to the practice direction as well as the need to resolve it”, he said, adding that work had been in progress with the Attorney-General of the state prior to the COVID-19 pandemic

“In view of the enormity of our cases, which is detrimental to the Lagos State and the entire nation, we were working on how courts could sit physically and thereafter, we came up with the remote direction,” he said

He said that criminal matters were a source of concern because they touch on the liberty of individuals.

“Some matters bordering on constitutional flavour particularly criminal matters where the liberty of citizens will be affected.

“We need to find a way to determine these cases; The objective is clearly stated there, for ‘timely and efficient disposal of cases’, use suitable technology to determine proceedings and efficient use of available judicial and administrative resources.

“We also provided electronic filing of processes, and realizing how far we had gone, I want to say that this area had engendered a lot of critique from learned colleagues.”

The Chief Judge said that notice of remote hearing will be on the doors of the courts and as well the judiciary website adding “they will also be circulated and posted in appropriate places within the court premises.”

He said that the Lagos Ministry of Justice want to make sure that the pandemic does not ground or paralyse the administration of justice in the state.

“Electronic filing of processes was an alternative that could be done in the court room knowing the state of our technology and the infrastructure we have on ground, not only as it is affecting the judiciary but also as it affects lawyers and other stakeholders.

“Particularly, citizens who may not be opportune to have the kind of technology to enable them do the filing electronically,” he said.

On the other hand, the Attorney- General of Lagos State, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, emphasized that the State Ministry of Justice wants to ensure that the administration of Justice in the state was not affected by the pandemic.

He noted that the Lagos Practice Direction was the in Nigeria to deal with remote sitting of courts

In the same vein, President of CRID-Law Net, Mr Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) added that CRID-Law Net is a non-advocacy group that promotes best practices in resolution of commercial disputes.

He said that the flagship of the project was based on the Administration of Civil Justice Bill.

According to him, the bill has been introduced to a number of states in the Federation but in particular, Ekiti State has taken the lead by enacting the bill into law in 2019.

“The Federal Attorney-General is currently looking into the bill and we are hopeful that it will soon be introduced to the National Assembly.

“We are looking forward to the Attorney-General of Lagos State to adopt and enact same into law.” he said.

Also speaking, Mr Tunde Fagbohunlu, SAN, who anchored the programme, said that it was now left for stakeholders to brainstorm on ways to ensure an efficient administration of justice using technology, during post COVID-19 and after.

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