Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Supreme Court management said on Thursday that it was upgrading its Information and Communication Technology system to enable it to begin virtual proceedings amid the lockdown of various parts of the country as a measure for the containment of COVID-19.

The apex court said this in a statement issued by its Director of Press and Information

In response to a feature story published by The PUNCH on Thursday.

“There is need to reiterate our initial position that in view of the current lockdown on most states of the federation and the FCT, as a result of the ravaging global coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court has started upgrading its Information  Technology facilities with a view to holding virtual proceedings within the shortest possible time,” Akande stated in the statement.

The PUNCH’s story titled, ‘COVID-19: How judiciary bungled opportunity to avert court shutdown’ highlights the lack of preparedness of the Nigerian judiciary to operate maximally through the adoption of Information Technology during the period of the ravaging coronavirus pandemic.

Responding to the story, Akande said the Legal E-Mail platform of the Supreme Court meant for the electronic service of court processes on lawyers had not been abandoned as suggested in the report.

He stated, “lt will be recalled that the Nigeria Legal E-mail System was officially inaugurated by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Mr. Justice WSN Onnoghen (retd) on July 18, 2018.

“The sole aim of this platform is to enable all the counsel that appear in Supreme Court to have valid E-mail Addresses with a PROOF-OF-SERVICE wherein they could easily be served Hearing Notices and Judgment Notices.

“Interestingly, over the years, lawyers have been registering for the Legal E-mail System in line with the terms of the platform. It is necessary to state that in Supreme Court, since July 2018, it has been a mandatory pre-requisite for filing of appeals at the Court’s Registry.

“Thus all lawyers must file with their Legal E-mail addresses on their documents.

“A key component of the Legal Email process is for the appellant and respondent lawyers to be available on the Legal Email Platform so that they could both be served their hearing notices through the email with a PROOF-OF-SERVICE. However, since the backlog of appeals currently being heard in the Supreme Court are those of 2008, which predate the 2018 inauguration, many of the lawyers involved have not yet registered on the platform.

“This leaves the court with no option at the moment than to manually serve the respective chambers and also by sending text messages to their mobile phones in the interim.”

Akande also said plans were ongoing “possibly to have the relevant laws in place, to ensure that any lawyer who has not registered for the Legal Email will not have his appeal listed for hearing at the Supreme Court”.

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