The news is everywhere that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has decided, from July 16, 2018 there will be no more manual forms of serving court processes in all cases before it and commence serving processes by electronic means on all matters.
Cheering news for those that understand how information technology can transform the judicial system by speeding up court processes.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, hinted on this in Abuja at the formal presentation of the ‘newly retrofitted court and legal mail’ at the Supreme Court.
He asked all judges and lawyers to subscribe to and acquire the legal mail, pledging to have the system replicated in all courts in the nearest future.
The system according to the CJN has become imperative to speed up justice delivery in the country.
“Manual forms of communication within the Nigerian courts will soon be phased out. Henceforth, lawyers who have acquired a legal email can now communicate electronically with the courts and with each other.
“However, by 16 July 2018, it becomes mandatory. The Supreme Court will only serve processes by electronic means that is, the legal mail, on all matters.
“Hence, all new filing as from 16th July 2018, must bear counsel’s legal email address.
“All courts are also encouraged to start using the email for serving lawyers. In addition, communication between the various judicial bodies will soon be through the official email system only – thereby, harnessing the benefits of the system in terms of confidentiality, integrity and availability,” Onnoghen said.
President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, also believes that the policy is overdue and critical in moving the justice sector forward.
“The email system will undoubtedly easy communication between the court and the bar. It will reduce paper work, speed up the court process and thereby improve the administration of justice.
“It is a major step in the attainment of objectives set out in the Judicial Information Technology policy of the Nigerian Judiciary launched in July 2012, with the mission of fully integrating ICT into our court system,” he said.
Investigations show that the Supreme Court has deployed a fully automated information framework kept in sync with the latest development in IT and strategically positioned itself as the Nigeria Judiciary Information hub.
The IT unit has gone ahead to develop a Networking Management and Support system; Database administration and support; Systems / user support unit- Hardware and software installation; Website content management and Consultation and training section.
Honestly, this is a step in the right direction. It implies that court users are to leverage electronic means of lodging Magistrates Court civil claim, statement of claim, request for default judgment, default judgment, affidavit, application in a proceeding and enforcement hearing summons forms online.
Legal firms and any other organisation approved under a practice direction by the National Judicial Council will use the e-mailing system to lodge documents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (with documents transferred seamlessly including public holidays.
In other words, tracking of documents online, with instant feedback about whether a document has been filed or rejected, or is pending would become easier.
It saves time by reducing the need to attend the court registry; which takes man-hours in some cases.
It further simplifies the process as the court user enters details once only which are reproduced automatically throughout the lodgement process.
Judges can access lodgement information remotely over the internet with no extra software required, thus reducing the burden of having to be at the court premises. This is what is obtainable in the private sector where the CEO or top management need not to be in office to take decisions. His office moves around with him.
Also, calculation fees and transaction costs should be included in the process and e-payment integrated so as to reduce the stress and other unsavoury stories surchanging the system or other court users.
All parties involved should support this new development for speedy court processes and surely we will be proud of our judiciary. We shouldn’t forget that not all users will be happy with this new development.