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The Virtual Court in Borno and Lagos Skype Proceedings: “E-Court Has Come to Stay” – Prince A.S. Abimbola

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“There is something bad in everything good and there is something good in everything bad”. – Michael Lewis

Perhaps, the saying that “there is something good in everything bad” could be true. At least it is true to the extent that the outbreak of the corona virus had hastened some innovations which otherwise might not have come as quickly as it came in the administration of justice in Borno and Lagos States.

The Borno state government has set up a virtual courtroom for hearing cases, using digital tools and about the same time, Kazeem Alogba, Chief Judge of Lagos State, approved the remote hearing of cases via Skype or Zoom.

Although, we are yet to see the Borno State High Court Rules and other relevant statutes amended to reflect the innovations established by the court, certainly that will be done at some point. The Chief Judge of Lagos State had stated that practice directions will be issued for the online proceedings. Naturally, we will have to amend the law to the meet the need of innovations put in place which I have no doubt would be done as quickly as possible. The good thing is we have commenced the use of e-court and nothing can stop it. It has come to stay.

Now, let us not go into the intricacies or the legal hurdles of the usage of these technological tools for court proceedings, the truth is, it has been available for a long time but we are just not ready to take advantage of technology. But thankfully, the outbreak of covid-19 has hasten the use of technology for court proceedings.

I read with interest the report on Kashim Zannah, the Chief Judge of the High Court of Borno State, where he told Nigerian television Authority (NTA) that although the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the development, the state would continue to take advantage of available technologies even after the pandemic. Therefore, no longer will matters be adjourned solely because a witness is not in court or out of jurisdiction. At least, a party will have to come up with another line of story. Naturally, novel lines will come up like; “no network, phone was acting up, phone or laptop was stolen, phone fell inside water etc. But all these narratives will not give you eternal excuses not attend court online.

I have no doubt that the process will bring along its legal hurdles but as is the case always with technology and innovations, we will move beyond that phase and the law will be settled on any challenge that may arise eventually. I take this opportunity to commend Mr. Kashim Zannah and Mr. Kazeem Alogba the Chief Judges of Borno and Lagos States respectively for this giant stride and a step in the right direction. Certainly other states of the federation will follow this innovation and push the frontiers in the administration and dispensation of justice.

I dare to say that life after covid-19 will never remain the same, not only for lawyers but for everyone.

Prince A.S. Abimbola

Chairman NBA, Epe Branch

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