The first virtual court session in Nigeria, tagged ID/9006C/2019 held last Monday at the Ikeja High Court in Lagos, where one Mr. Olalekan Hameed was sentenced to death, for the murder of his employer 76-year-old, Mrs. Jolasun Okunsanya on December 1st, 2018.
The Lagos legal system made use of popular American conference call software Zoom with a number of participants in attendance. This includes the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), the prosecutor, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-Bey, and some Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Funke Adekoya, Tayo Oyetibo, Olukayode Enitan, amongst others.
While passing the sentence, the presiding judge, Justice Mojisola Dada said “The sentence of this court upon you, Olalekan Hameed, is that you be hanged by the neck until you are pronounced dead and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul. This is the virtual judgment of the court.”
The proceedings were validated by Lagos state Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba, in line with the remote model of justice, which Lagos state adopted on May 4th, 2020.
Current vice president and former attorney general of Lagos state, Professor Yemi Osinbajo led a government-initiated study in 1999 that emphasized corruption and the severe backlog of court cases, which deprived people of timely justice.
In similar lieu, in October 2018, Punch newspaper reported that, at the beginning of the 2018/2019 legal year, 191,766 cases were yet to be concluded by a judge or legal counsel.
The internet leverage for holding legal cases can be considered profitable as opposed to letting cases pile up due to COVID-19 ripple effects, which will later unfold to a clashing backlog of legal cases.
However, some law observers believe the online court system is a flawed alternative to courtrooms, as it omits public participation
The Director of Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho emphasized that the legal sitting did not make provision for a public hearing, which is mandatory in the Nigerian legal system.
Additionally, the London based organization leveraged on that opportunity to urge the Nigeria Ministry of Justice to abolish the death penalty, It will be recalled that in 2015, the non-governmental organization warned Nigeria and Egypt against the death sentence for a capital offense.
The E- court initiative was created to align with the order on movement restrictions passed by the federal government of Nigeria in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a virtual courtroom, the Lagos state government has proven its vocal commitment in providing justice to people, however, the statistics on the ground still indicate a need for more aggressive efforts to enable an efficient justice system.