National Institute of the Judiciary and the challenges of judicial automation | The Guardian Nigeria News
The judicial arm of government is a crucial cornerstone of any society. It is the branch of government responsible for resolving disputes between individuals and groups or between individuals and the government.
The judiciary has a responsibility to maintain the efficiency, effectiveness and prompt delivery of justice to all members of society, regardless of their status.
To effectively carry out these responsibilities, administrators need knowledge of digital technology and expertise to improve the efficiency and convenience of the administration of justice by helping to remove some of the limitations of their functioning.
Manual procedures in courts are now being phased out and replaced by digital processes in North America, Europe and a few Middle Eastern countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, while China is expected to digitize its halls audience by 2025.
Africa cannot be an exception, the reason why some countries are taking shape. Nigeria, as a leader, must also have enough courage to digitize its processes.
Therefore, efforts are underway here and there for a complete digitization of justice. This may have triggered the plan to start virtual court proceedings in all correctional centers in the federation.
The Federation Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has launched a pilot project for virtual court proceedings at Kuje Correctional Center in Abuja.
As part of system digitization efforts, AGF has also worked with development partners to deploy Q-Soft Denovo Court Recording System (CRS) in July 2021. Q-Soft Denovo (CRS) is an AV system based on technology. recording and reporting device to improve the speed and accuracy of court proceedings, thereby increasing the dispensation of justice.
Again, the department has launched its electronic library. This has increased the legal resources available to lawyers. In addition, the department is working to deploy a case management system. This system allows for real-time updates and quick access to case information when needed.
It allows lawyers to access their files from anywhere. It enables case tracking, court scheduling and instant transcription which is easier and less time consuming. In addition, it speeds up the reporting of cases and improves transparency.
All these elements go in the direction of the digitization of the administration of justice. While they are in progress, the tools and facilities cannot move the process forward without proper training of the human resources who would handle them as well as the judges.
Statutorily, the National Institute of the Judiciary (INM) is the body in charge of the training of judicial officers. According to the law that established it, which is the National Judicial Institute Act (1991 No. 28.), the cardinal purpose and function of the Institute in Section 2 of the Act states: “For the purposes of subsection (I) of this section, the Institute is empowered to (a) conduct courses for all categories of bailiffs and their support staff with a view to broadening and improve their general knowledge and their performance in their various sections of service; (b) ensure the continuous training of all categories of judicial officers in
undertake, organize, conduct and facilitate courses of study, lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences and other programs related to judicial training”.
The administrator of the INM, Judge Salisu Garuba Abdullahi, had stressed the need to raise awareness among judicial personnel in the country on information technology (ICT) training. He said that the rapid development of ICTs and their adoption have helped to improve judicial administration, especially in the area of alleviating the work process of the ever-increasing workload in the courts.
Abdullahi said this during his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Workshop, held in Abuja.
To bridge the gap, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was contracted by the Institute. He now partners with NJI to deploy Information Technology (IT) for effective delivery of social justice in Nigeria.
NITDA Director General Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi pointed out that the deployment of IT in the Nigerian judiciary would help improve the efficiency, in particular, of court proceedings and combat real or perceived corruption.
He further proposed training and retraining of bailiffs to understand computer skills to help them reach maximum capacity and take advantage of digital technology.
Abdullahi said the application of artificial intelligence (AI) performs assessments and makes decisions for humans based on available data and therefore compels the judiciary to adopt the use of IT in its processes of work.
“We live in a world where technology can be used to profile and make recommendations. It is therefore very important to integrate the use of IT in our judicial system to improve performance at work,” he said.
According to Abdullahi, to reap the benefits of digital technology in the country, judges must have a thorough understanding of digital literacy skills, a responsibility that falls to the NJI.
He further disclosed that in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) update, the agency’s comprehensive introduction and implementation of digital transformation for all ministries , Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are in high gear.
The INM has started training some heads of courts. The Chief Justice of Lagos State has at times attended ICT training organized by the Institute for members of the Lagos State Judiciary ICT/JIS Committee. The program is in preparation for the legal e-mail system, which is now effective in most courts.
The Legal Email System is a newly introduced platform where the communication, filing and service of court proceedings and lawyer correspondences will be done electronically, erasing all manual methods.
The electronic mail system, which will serve as a means of communication between judges, court staff and lawyers, as well as between lawyers.
In addition, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in collaboration with the NJI organizes an annual workshop for Nigerian judges to sensitize and familiarize them with the dynamics of emerging technologies and their impact on the justice system.
During the workshop, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, noted that the telecommunications sector has seen a significant increase in the number of service providers, which has made the sector more competitive and subject to to abuse.
He said that some of the consumer risks have led to numerous disputes and disputes, which invariably end up in court and therefore require competent judges who are well equipped and aware of current trends to deal with such cases.
“The growing need for consumer protection in this sector is becoming increasingly complex for the courts and the regulator in today’s converging framework, which includes e-commerce, e-payment and e-banking, all creating a major challenge in the sector.
“This forum will further equip judicial officers with the legal and technical skills needed to resolve disputes in this particular area of law and in doing so, keep them up to date with global best practices,” Muhammad said.
However, the lawyers regretted that Nigerian judges have yet to fully embrace the use of ICT in the administration of justice.
Douglas Ogbankwa, a lawyer, said, “I tried to convince leaders of the judiciary at all levels to use ICT to simplify the justice system. In the 21st century, judges and other court officials still write by hand. We should have a complete audio-visual module that will give a 360° view in voice and images of what is happening in court.
According to him, the case involving Inibehe Effiong, a lawyer and the Chief Justice of Akwa Ibom State has again highlighted the imperative of having an electronic registration system that is verifiable and not open to manipulation, or subject to the whims of anyone.
The lawyer suggested that all courts have a functioning WhatsApp group, made up of court officials and lawyers to bridge the gap in information dissemination.
“The Court of Appeal, Benin Division WhatsApp Group, established by Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, now Supreme Justice, is perhaps the most dynamic in Nigeria and should be used as a model for other Nigerian courts to adopt” , said the lawyer. .
Ogbankwa said the NJI has not been proactive in training judiciary officials in this regard. “Justice officials do not need to congregate physically with all the dangers and expense that entails. We can adopt teleconferencing for the training of judicial officers”, he suggested.
He instructed the body to be more proactive in providing specialized training to bailiffs, so that parties in cases like EFCC, CBN, NNPC, SEC among others can benefit.
An Abuja-based lawyer, Anone A. Usman, while stressing the importance of ICT in the administration of justice, said, “The benefits are stark. First, the debates are conducted more quickly since they are recorded verbatim in digital format. A corollary of this advantage is that records of proceedings are easily accessible, retrievable and acceptable. »
He pointed out that if the proceedings are digitally recorded, an accurate account of the events of each court session will be easily compiled.
However, he thinks differently about NJI’s performance. According to him, the Institute adapts very well to the times. “Conscious of the utility value of ICT in the exercise of justice, training and refresher courses are constantly organized for magistrates in the use of ICT. But of course much more can and should be done,” he said.
Usman, however, advised the NJI to advocate that aspiring judges should be proficient in the use of ICT, instead of only asking for funding for ICT infrastructure and tools for use by judges.
He said the judges operate in a mindset of conservatism. “It is not surprising that many do not hesitate to write by hand and in ink. But, this attitude is gradually changing as some judges are now coming to court with laptops. More and more judges are now citing electronic law reports in their judgements, which means they are using these aids.
“Many judges have embraced the assistance of stenographers and I believe that before long the use of ICT by judges will become the norm. The INM must encourage this change of attitude,” he charged.