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NBA chairmen laud Lagos virtual court sitting, highlight challenges

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The Chairmen of the Ikeja and Ikorodu branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Tuesday lauded the virtual court sitting initiated by the Lagos State Judiciary.

The virtual court sitting is  part of social distancing measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The maiden virtual court sitting via the Zoom App was held on Monday with Justice Mojisola Dada of an Ikeja High Court sentencing a driver, Olalekan Hameed, to death by hanging,  for murder.

The proceedings were approved by Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba, in line with the Lagos State Judiciary Remote Hearing of Cases COVID-19 Pandemic Period Practice Direction.

Lauding the initiative, the Chairman of the Ikorodu branch of the NBA, Mr Bayo Akinlade, described it as a giant step in the right direction.

He, however, noted that the maiden virtual proceedings took a long time..

“The reading of the judgment took a  long time,  it was over two hours, and we cannot afford to waste too much time because we are online. We have to save costs.

“A ruling or a judgment online should not take more than five minutes so that other businesses can be attended to.

“You cannot have online meetings for four hours. Zoom meetings are straight to the point, most people have online meetings for 40 minutes or an hour,” he said.

The NBA chairman said that in order for the judiciary to be technologically strong, some old traditions must be jettisoned.

Akinlade also urged that the virtual court sitting technology should be extended to magistrates courts which, he said, handled more cases than high courts.

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Commenting, the NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr Dele Oloke, also  lauded the virtual court sitting.

He said that it was in line with the evolving times, but said that the NBA was not properly briefed by the judiciary.

He said that the virtual hearing was not extensively planned, adding that  it was not a process that could be done through a “fire brigade” approach because of the equipment required and  number of participants.

“The facilities for the remote or virtual hearing must be available not only to the judiciary but to individuals;  it takes two to tango as they say.

“There is also the need for the judiciary to carry the bar along;  it should have heard from members of the bar and not just select few because three or five trees do not make a forest.

“The remote hearing is the way to go but there is a lot to be done before it is institutionalised; otherwise, most of the judgments that will emanate from it will be tested on appeal.

“We should do things that will stand the test of time; there is nothing you will do by innovation that people would not complain about.

” Humans do not like change, but to have effective change, all critical stakeholders must be carried along, ” he said.

He said that to be able to proceed successfully with the virtual court sitting, there must be stable supply of electricity.

According to him,  physical courtrooms should not be neglected by the judiciary since there are proceedings that cannot be conclusive by virtual court hearings.

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“The physical courts have to be also well-developed in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic so that the wellness and safety of our judicial officers can be guaranteed,” Oloke said. (NAN)

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