DOING FIRST THINGS FIRST: The Problems Virtual Court Hearing Would Face In Nigeria (Part 1: Power)- Sylvester Udemezue

DOING FIRST THINGS FIRST: The Problems Virtual Court Hearing Would Face In Nigeria. (Part 1: Power)

(SYLVESTER UDEMEZUE)

29 April 2020

The idea of having virtual court hearing is excellent and its realization (if practicable) would take us far into the progress path and near the Eldorado. ▪️I would be the happiest to be alive to see a Nigeria where these things work seamlessly, because i am a witness to the fact we are far behind▪️But, I am sorry, the beautiful proposition on virtual hearing failed (almost completely) to take into consideration the stark, hard realities on ground in the Nigeria we all would so happily wish to have on the I- and E- pedestal. ▪️Let’s start with a dispassionate look at some of these
unfortunate realities that would (not might) effectively hinder the full realization of those excellent propositions of yours:1️⃣In Canada and China, etc that are often cited as examples by proponents of virtual hearing, power supply is available 24/7. ▪️In Nigeria, on the other hand, there is a hopeless near-absence of power supply due to poor power generation, despite the humongous sums already sunk into that sector
▪️As of 2018, see how the countries stand on electricity generation capacity: 1️⃣China — 7,111,800 gigawatt-hours (the highest in the world)
2️⃣USA. — 4,460,800 gigawatt-hours (2nd position). 3️⃣Canada — 654,400 gigawatt-hours (6th position). 4️⃣INDIA — 1,561,100 gigawatt-hours (3rd position). 6️⃣Japan— 1,051,600 (5th position). 7️⃣Nigeria — 28,000 (70th position in the world). ▪️Yet, we think we can be like China, Canada, USA, etc overnight by merely dreaming of it? *▪️Or, didn’t we consider the place of steady or stable electric power supply in the effective, efficient use and sustenance of ICT and the internet for purposes of moving us into the regime of seamless E-Hearing of entire cases? *▪️Or, did we suppose that the Nigerian judiciary or its justice sector is not a part of this Nigeria that has become a Generator Republic and living in darkness? ▪️With due respect, I repeat that we have completely ignored these realities and so, comparing Nigeria to China is akin to comparing a sports car to a bicycle in terms of speed! ▪️How fair are we to the bicycle? ▪️Or, do we just prefer to build our castles in the air by engaging in white elephant projects that would at the end make us worse?▪️I think all first things ought to be be done first. ▪️We must get Nigerian electric power-generation right, and electricy supply to a somewhat stable state. Or, plan an alternative powers to sustain virtual court hearing in Nigeria . ▪️As long as Nigeria remains in darkness as it currently is, talks about full deployment of E-Hearing of cases would remain a mere dream. ▪️If you want the river to be clean, you must first purify the various streams that run/flow into the river. ▪️The legal profession & and the justice system cannot operate independent of the Nigeria state. Whatever affects the latter would obviously affect the former. ▪️If the entire body of a man is sick, you can’t set out to heal only his hand while the body is still sick; the hand would never know peace as long as the entire body remains sick. ▪️So, I still suggest that we first perfect our attempts at E-FILING, E-SERVICE and E-HEARING of applications. ▪️These are achievable under the current circumstances (I will explain how, later), while we hope to upgrade fully when our country is ready for such progress.
?I do not agree with any suggestion that E-Trial of cases has begun working seamlessly in Borno State, in Lagos State or elsewhere in Nigeria . That’s a farce. ▪️What the news report said about Borno, is that High Court 13 in Maiduguri had deployed the internet to deliver its judgement to the hearing of all, without requiring the parties and lawyers to be physically present inside the courtroom. ▪️Although a bold, commendable attempt by the Borno state judiciary, yet, I am still of the respectful opinion that E-TRIAL OF CASES can’t work “seamlessly” in the Nigeria we have today because the Nigerian judiciary doesn’t and can’t operate independent of the Nigerian state. ▪️Let’s not pretend that what is not there/here is there/here. ▪️Delivering a judgement online is not synonymous with hearing a case ONLINE from beginning to the end. ▪️The latter is much more complex and involves much more than what it would take to effect the former. ▪️I repeat that we should start with developing and sustaining E-FILING and E-SERVICE to make them work, because these are not yet working anywhere in Nigeria (quote me). Then, we can add E-HEARING of interlocutory and all other applications (commenced by originating Summons and originating motions) that do not involve examination of witnesses and that are accompanied by written addresses. ▪️We would deploy full e-trial of cases (begun by Petition or Writ of summons) but only on occasions when it’s reasonably impractical or too expensive for witnesses to come personally to court. ▪️A good starting point these would be, pending when so many things that are not yet right in Nigeria, are made right —- because a regime of seamless full trial (from filing to judgement) would depend on so many other factors which are not yet in place in Nigeria. ▪️Again , someone has referred me to how E-Banking, etc has become possible in Nigeria, as an indication that E-HEARING of cases in courts could be full and operating seamlessly ▪️May I humbly and respectfully propose that such is yet another grossly inapposite comparison. ▪️E-Banking is like sending of emails; both are powered through the same processes, unlike E-HEARING/trial of cases that would require the VIRTUAL/ONLINE LIVE presence of participating persons and parties in the form of live video conferencing. ▪️How would anyone be comparing e-banking to E-TRIAL of cases in courts of law? ▪️They’re completely different and unrelated to each other. ▪️Does e-banking involve live E-conferencing real-time? ▪️Even if it does (you and I know it doesn’t), is the video interaction in banking matters not just between one banker and one customer having a direct video call with each other for a couple of minutes? ▪️How is that to be compared to a situation where the court, the claimant, his lawyer or lawyers, the defendant, his lawyer or lawyers, witnesses, clerks, Registrars, orderlies, media men, etc, would need to be online real-time in a live meeting for many hours? ▪️Then what about the Constitutional provisions on right of the public to have access? Would e-hearing satisfy such or have you amended the constitution?▪️By the way, to what extent has the introduction of e-banking in Nigeria stoped us from actually going into banking halls to undertake other aspects of the banking business transactions?
▪️I WILL CONTINUE LATER ,* to try to discuss some other reasons why I think we are still far off, and therefore shouldn’t bite more than we could chew —2️⃣Internet strength, connectivity and effectiveness in Nigerian, to support live online court proceedings. 3️⃣Practicability; you can’t compel the doing of the impracticable. 4️⃣ICT and other relevant Facilities5️⃣Funding 6️⃣Impact of corruption and fraud. 7️⃣Effectiveness and efficiency; 8️⃣Legal Franework, etc.
Till then, best regards.
Respectfully,
Sylvester Udemezue
UDEMS.

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