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No tech-in-courts policy–Legal practitioner

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By Abraham Adekunle

Country lacks framework for the application of tech in courts.

Renowned legal practitioner and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, has expressed concerns over the absence of a coherent policy framework guiding the application of technology in Nigerian courts in the 21st century. He made the remarks at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Kano branch 2024 Law Week themed, ‘Turning Point: Assessing the Impact of Innovations on Enhancing Justice Administration and Delivery in Nigeria’. The challenge in Nigeria lies in the absence of a clear policy framework for integrating technology in courts. There is a lack of adequate resource provision, and much of the investment is driven by procurement rather than informed decisions based on needs assessment or suitable technology selection.

This has resulted in the underutilization of technology in Nigerian courts, with many courts still relying on manual processes for case management and record-keeping. Technological solutions often lack harmonization across different courts, hindering the exchange of information or data. In many cases, vendors merely supply devices to courts, some of which are underutilized and serve as mere decorations in offices. This lack of harmonization also makes it difficult to share information and coordinate efforts between different courts and justice agencies.

Thorough preparation and cultural shift needed.

Mahmoud emphasized the inadequate training of staff and judges, and the crucial need for thorough preparation and cultural transformation to ensure successful technology integration in the judiciary. He stressed that consistent structures within courts are vital to drive this transformation, including clear guidelines and protocols for technology use, adequate infrastructure, and reliable technical support. This enables a seamless transition from traditional manual processes to digital systems, enhancing efficiency and accuracy. Effective training and cultural transformation empower staff and judges to harness technology’s potential, promoting a modern and responsive judiciary that meets the needs of a rapidly evolving society.

In her address, Kano State Chief Justice, Dije Abdu Aboki, commended the organizers of the event and urged legal practitioners to utilize the platform to discuss challenges and enhance the efficiency of the judiciary in the state. She emphasized the importance of technology in enhancing the speed and accuracy of justice delivery, and encouraged legal practitioners to embrace technology to improve their practice. Kano State Deputy Governor, Aminu Abdussalam Gwarzo, who officially opened the week, expressed gratitude to the NBA and its members for their contributions to the success of the state judiciary. He acknowledged the importance of technology in modernizing the judiciary and improving access to justice, and pledged the state government’s support for efforts to integrate technology in courts.

Deploying technology in Nigerian court system.

NBA National President, Yakubu Maikyau, announced plans for the NBA maiden conference in the North to be held in Kano in June. He highlighted the association’s significant presence with over 150,000 lawyers and 128 branches across Nigeria, including two branches and three sections in Kano. He emphasized the need for legal practitioners to stay abreast of technological developments and adapt to changing times to remain relevant in the profession. Effective deployment of technology in Nigerian courts requires a clear policy framework, adequate resource provision, and harmonization of technological solutions across different courts.

It includes the need for a comprehensive plan for technology integration, adequate funding, and technical support. Consistent structures within courts are also necessary to drive technology integration, including clear guidelines and protocols for the use of technology in courts. Technology can enhance the efficiency of the judiciary, and legal practitioners should utilize available platforms to discuss challenges and enhance the efficiency of the judiciary. This includes the use of electronic filing systems, online case management, and digital recording of court proceedings. Technology can also improve access to justice, particularly for marginalized communities, by providing online platforms for legal advice and representation.

Related Article: Nigeria’s technology industry growth

Of course, the Nigerian Bar Association has a significant presence across Nigeria, with over 150,000 lawyers and 128 branches, and can play a crucial role in driving technology integration in Nigerian courts. The association can provide a platform for legal practitioners to discuss challenges and share best practices, as well as advocate for policy reforms and resource allocation to support technology integration in courts. The association’s plans for a maiden conference in the North, to be held in Kano in June, can provide a platform for legal practitioners to discuss challenges and enhance the efficiency of the judiciary. The conference can also provide an opportunity for legal practitioners to share best practices and learn from international experts in court technology and innovation.

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