A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr Babatunde Ajibade, has urged lawyers to adapt to the reality of virtual hearing of matters by courts in Nigeria, following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ajbade, a Managing Partner of SPA Ajibade & Co, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Thursday.
He said that with the restriction of movement due to the partial lockdown, the Judiciary must now close a significant gap existing in the speedy administration of justice.
According to him, virtual court proceedings will first impact the legal system by assisting to keep the judiciary functional even during the pandemic.
“Not engaging in a virtual hearing before now have put us in a great disadvantage as the justice sector is an essential service to any civilised society.
“Having a situation where courts cannot sit to dispense justice because of the pandemic as we have at the moment, is just not acceptable.
“So, virtual hearings are very good ways of addressing that problem and by so doing, we can get the court to continue to function without people having to come together,” he said.
Ajibade noted that quite clearly, there might be challenges with virtual hearings and it was not going to be a solution to all problems but all those challenges had been identified and people were working on them now.
“For example, it may be difficult to have full hearings through virtual proceedings because, there will be challenges with how to tender document and get witnesses to give evidence, but these challenges are not insurmountable.
“So, all efforts should be geared toward addressing those challenges.
“If we get it right, then even after the pandemic, it is a verifiable way of making our justice sector a lot more efficient and will assist hopefully, in addressing some of the delays in the system,” he said.
Ajibade said that virtual hearings would require a lot of investment in technology and infrastructure training of judges, judicial staff and lawyers.
He said the judiciary and judicial officers must be ready to adapt to the “new normal” so as not to be left behind.
NAN reports that some courts across the nation had commenced virtual court sittings following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In first virtual court proceedings in Lagos, an Ikeja Division of the High Court on May 4, 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.