The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) yesterday said the deployment of virtual court sitting technology in correctional facilities was aimed at ensuring speedy dispensation of justice and decongestion of custodial centres in the country.
Malami stated this at the launch of a pilot project for the deployment and use of Virtual Court sitting facilities at the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja.
The AGF 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 fair hearing within a reasonable time.
“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 are no longer constrained by mobility, space and time in the delivery of justice delivery on account of accommodation of the virtual court sitting facilities and deployment of incidental technology.
“Notably, our justice system is founded on the constitutional principle of fundamental rights to fair hearing that requires the court to hear and determine cases in public and the physical presence of the suspects or parties in court,” Malami said.
Malami said the Virtual Court Proceedings are in compliance with the provisions of section 36(3) of the Constitution, which provides for public court sitting or hearing.
“These Virtual Court Proceedings meet up with the expectation of the constitution and are not private hearings but open to the respective counsel involved, the litigants (inmates) and the general public at large,” he said.
Leticia Ayoola-Daniels, Acting Director Administration of Criminal Justice and Reforms Department Federal Ministry of Justice, who doubles as Secretary of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion, expressed hope that these virtual court facilities will feed into the already existing virtual court sittings that are in the judiciary, and by so doing fast track the dispensation of court cases while saving costs on security and mobilization of accused persons.
In a goodwill message, UNDP Nigeria Country Representative, Lealem Dinku said the programme was designed to support the court system to accelerate the hearing of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence/ Harmful Practices/Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights/Violence Against Women and Girls civil and criminal cases, and will allow judiciaries to hear cases without transporting inmates to physical locations.
This project was fully funded by the UNDP, with funds from the government of Japan (Supporting an Inclusive & Multi-Sectoral Response to COVID- 19 and Addressing Socio- Economic Impact).