By Rasheed Sobowale
To deal with the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the National Judicial Council (NJC) on Thursday issued new guidelines all Nigerian courts are expected to operate with.
In a press statement signed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon. Dr. Justice I. T. Muhammad, CFR, the Council encouraged the maximal usage of provided Court Technology Solutions and enjoined the State governments to provide the resources for State Judiciaries to leverage the Nigerian Case Management System (NCMS).
The new NJC guideline was noted by the Chief Justice to have been a derivative of the report submitted by a committee headed by the Hon. Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour.
“At its 91st Meeting held on the 22nd day of April, 2020, the National Judicial Council constituted a Committee to devise guidelines and measures to enable safe Court sittings during this challenging period of the Coronavirus Pandemic and areas of necessary cooperation with the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and others in meeting the challenges.”
In the report, the CJN stated; “Furthermore, I have directed the Judicial Information Technology Policy Committee (JITPCO), of the Council to urgently set-up a Helpdesk for Courts that may require handholding in adopting and utilizing the technological tools suggested in the guidelines. Reach them on 0809 999 1212 ad [email protected]
“In further entrenchment of Court Technology Solutions, State governments be implored to provide the resources for State Judiciaries to commence utilization of Nigerian Case Management System (NCMS). This electronic solution is already developed by the Council and the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal have commenced uploading their backlog of cases. I have directed the JITPCO to expand rollout beyond the Pilot Courts and extend to any State that is ready to take off and check all the boxes of the checklist of roll out requirements.
“Service of processes and Hearing Notices have posed serious challenges resulting in delays. The National Judicial Council took on this and developed a Legal Mail Solutions to address that and enable a workable e-filling solution for our Courts. In the attached guidelines, the current practice is allowed to continue in order to avoid disruption. Heads of Courts and the Bar are however implored to encourage adoption of the Legal Mail so that the comprehensive solution is applied, once and for all times.
“I have also directed the Secretary of the Council to liaise with the Attorney-General for assistance at resolution with relevant agencies of government, some existing challenges to the implementation of Council’s Information Technology Policy, like addressing the Skillset gap through employment and practicable compensation for such IT Staff as demanded by the prevalent sectoral practice.
“All Heads of Courts are directed to bring the content of this Circular to the notice of all Stakeholders in justice administration, please.”