Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Why Nigeria needs virtual court proceedings, by Abubakar Malami

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Ibrahim Ramalan
Ibrahim Ramalan is a graduate of Mass Communications from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. With nearly a decade-long, active journalism practice, Mr Ramalan has been able to rise from a cub reporter to the exalted position of an editor; first as Arts Editor with the Blueprint Newspapers before resigning in 2019; second and presently as an Associate Editor of the Daily Nigerian online newspaper. He can be reached via [email protected], or www.facebook.com/ibrahim.ramalana, or @McRamalan on Twitter.
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The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, says the deployment of the virtual court sitting technology in Correctional facilities will ensure speedy dispensation of Justice and decongest custodial centres in the country.

Mr Malami said this at the launch of the nationwide pilot project for the deployment and use of Virtual Court sitting facilities at the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja on Monday.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the project was fully funded by the UNDP, with funds from the government of Japan supporting an inclusive and multi-sectoral response to COVID-19 and addressing socio-economic impact.

He said the project was initiated to ensure the hearing and determination of urgent and time-bound cases using the digital platform.

“This system would equally ensure speedy dispensation of trials in line with section 36(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which provides that every person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time.

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“It would also eliminate the issue of difficulties in conveying the inmates to court and would further ensure the safety and security of the inmates and law enforcement officers.

“We will no longer be constrained by mobility, space and time in the justice delivery with the virtual court sitting facilities and deployment of incidental technology.

Mr Malami noted that the Nigeria justice system is founded on the constitutional principle of fundamental rights to fair hearing which requires the court to hear and determine cases in public or without the physical presence of the suspects or parties in court.

Also speaking, Leticia Ayoola-Daniels, Acting Director Administration of Criminal Justice and Reforms Department, Federal Ministry of Justice expressed hope that virtual court facilities will feed into the already existing virtual court sittings.

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Mrs Ayoola-Daniels, who is also the Secretary of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion, noted that the project would fast track dispensation of court cases while saving costs on security and mobilization of accused persons.

Contributing, Lealem Dinku, the UNDP Nigeria Country Representative in a goodwill message said the programme was designed to support the court system to accelerate the hearing of most urgent cases.

“Cases like Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Harmful Practices, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Violence against Women and Girls civil and other criminal cases.

Mr Dinku added that the project will help to reduce backlog and the time spent in pre-trial detention while also helping to reduce administration and operational costs.

The Minster of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola in his speech called for inclusion of terminal dates in the administration of justice act for quick dispensation of justice in the country.

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Mr Aregbesola urged his counterpart in the ministry of justice to liase with the Chief Justice of Nigeria to speedily work out  terminal dates for different cases to help reduce prison congestion in Nigeria.

He expressed regrets that many of those in the custody stayed longer than the prescribed period of terms by the law.

NAN also reports that the highlight of the event was the release of 15 inmates with minor offences with an option of fines.

The fines were paid by the committee and their releases effected.

Dignitaries at the occasion were the Federal High Court Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho, FCT Chief Judge, Justice Ishaq Bello, Ambassador of Japan, Matsunaga Kazuyoshi, Controller-General, NCS, Haliru Nababa among others.

NAN

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