Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, (SAN) and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad have called for total adoption of technology in the administration of justice in Nigeria.
The VP, who commended the Supreme Court for giving its stamp of approval to virtual court sittings, said technology has aided the democratization of law and justice in the country.
He called for purpose-built solutions for the administration of justice by indigenous legal and technology companies, pledging federal government’s commitment to support them adapt to the new global realities powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated technology solutions.
In his remarks, the CJN alluded to the giant strides that have been made by the apex court in recent years by adopting the use of court management software, demonstrating a marked departure from the analogue system of adjudication. He reiterated the support of the Judiciary in adopting new technologies that accelerate the delivery of justice to Nigerians.
They both spoke at a 2-day virtual conference organized by Nigeria’s foremost legal technologies company, LawPavilion Business Solutions Limited, in collaboration with Telnet Group.
One of the highpoints of the conference was the unveiling and launching of the E-Library of the Laws of Lagos State on the LawPavilion platform by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, represented by Mr. Moyo Onigbanjo (SAN), Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Lagos State.
Working in collaboration with the Law Reform Commission of Lagos State, the e-library platform will make the Laws of Lagos State easily accessible and relevant for the use of Lagosians and the public.
The Annotated e-laws of Lagos State on platform will also highlight how the courts and populace interact with the laws, leveraging on machine learning and artificial intelligence. This approach will ensure that new laws and decisions of court are data-driven, with its finger on the pulse of the citizenry.
Also unveiled at the conference was the LawRights App, a solution from the stables of LawPavilion, for the use of the general public to know and understand their constitutional rights, have access to lawyers and law firms from within the app and where necessary, initiate the process of adjudication where rights have been abused or trampled upon.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) pointed out that access to justice and upholding rule of law will remain a mirage where the average citizen is ignorant of his rights under the law or is deprived of widespread access to regulatory bodies and government agencies that can ensure that citizens’ rights are not trampled upon.
He commended the LawRights App and described it as a ground-breaking solution for Nigerians, including stakeholders in the administration of justice and legal services industries.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Paradigm Initiatives Gbenga Sesan, pointed out there was the need to use technology to accelerate access to justice, especially as the country adjusts to the realities of the pandemic, citing several examples of interaction with law enforcement agencies, which ended in wanton abuse of the human rights and dignity of the affected victims.
He advocated a rapid adoption of a law that recognises digital rights of citizens and pointed out that Nigeria could become a leader among other African countries in this regard.
Sesan said innovation cannot thrive in an environment where justice is stifled and rights trampled upon with impunity without redress, calling for practical demonstration of justice in the protection of rights, especially digital rights.
NBA presidential aspirant, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN) said while there is not yet a national consensus about the adoption of technology, there needs to be more thinking about how technology can be harnessed to facilitate the delivery of justice, with the corresponding financial and human resource investments required.
He pointed out that there are still significant pockets of technologically challenged members of the Bar and the Bench.
In terms of whether the legal service and judiciary are walking the talk when it comes to using technology to enhance and improve delivery of services, Mr. Folorunsho Aliu, MD of Telnet Group said the sector is on a journey to getting better on how technology is used and harnessed for justice and economic growth.
He was of the opinion that lessons and ideas that will emerge from the conference will be instrumental towards more widespread adoption and use of legal technology in Nigeria.
During the breakout session on managing law firms and legal departments, members of the panel demonstrated extensive understanding in articulating the solutions their law firms or legal departments had utilized to improve efficiency.
Sesan Sobowale of Union Bank Legal Department and his counterpart, Raymond Mgbeokwere of First Bank shared unique insights about the deployment of LawPavilion Case Management Solution for Legal Departments, to automate the administration and coordination of their legal teams, while Mr Seun Abimbola, former Attorney General of Oyo State shared insights of his experience in running a government department and urged that legal technologies solutions were the way forward to meet the competing demands on the legal department or law office, particularly in this pandemic.
Speaking on whether the legal ecosystem is an evolution or a revolution, Mr. Lere Fashola, publisher of ESQ Magazine said the eco-system is both an evolution, looking at how far legal services industry had come in Nigeria and also a revolution, because COVID-19 has altered how people interact and do businesses, thereby necessitating the adoption of virtual court hearings and progressive use of several technological platforms to provide services to clients.
There were several engaging discussion and panel sessions, including a session displaying e-filing and court management processes and solutions, aimed at accelerating case management of the entire court system from end to end as well. The private sector was not left out as.
During the panel discussion, in response to the question about the readiness of the Nigerian judiciary to adapt technology as needed in a post COVID-19 environment, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola submitted that the Nigerian judiciary has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate a willingness to adopt technologies and adapt court processes, in a bid to ensure that delivery of justice is not delayed or hampered.