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COVID-19: Lawyers to judiciary: Embrace virtual proceedings

Some lawyers in Lagos have urged the judiciary to fully implement virtual court sitting as a strategy to control the second wave of COVID-19 scourge in Nigeria. In interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, yesterday, the lawyers regretted that the judiciary abandoned virtual court proceedings when COVID-19-induced restrictions were eased.

A former Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ikorodu Branch, Mr. Bayo Akinlade, said that virtual court proceedings had not impacted justice delivery as it should. According to Akinlade, virtual or remote court sitting is still a concept that is ‘hanging out’ there. He said that the concept had yet to be fully adopted in Nigeria. “We are still at the point where we are trying to get the courts to adopt virtual sittings across board.

“With the resurgence of COVID-19, the judiciary has only one option – to fully adopt remote hearing protocols and ensure the technology is available at both the high and magistrates’ courts,” he said. Akinlade said that remote hearing would enable the judiciary to navigate through COVID-19 without paralysing access to justice.

He advised the judiciary to fully embrace the innovation and provide the relevant technology for its effective implementation. Also, a lawyer and mediation expert, Mr. Valentino Buoro, has advised the judiciary to sustain virtual court proceedings for the safety of judges, lawyers and litigants, with regard to the second wave of COVID- 19. Buoro, the Director, Standing Conference of Mediation Advocates, advised that physical proceedings should be disengaged.

“Since a stronger wave of the pandemic has come, there is nothing else to do except to go fully digital,” Buoro said. Mr. Chibuikem Opara, a lawyer at the Justification Law Firm, Ikeja, said that virtual court sittings helped significantly during the first wave of the pandemic.

Opara said that although innovations such as virtual hearing could be demanding, their gains were immense. According to him, virtual sittings make parties to concentrate on proceedings since there are hardly any distractions. “We cannot forget that with virtual hearing, parties obtain full benefits of proceedings without being subjected to health hazards brought by COVID-19,” he added. According to him, virtual hearings encourage expeditious disposal of cases and minimise cost for parties involved.

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