In an age where technology is bringing the world closer, a Lagos based lawyer, Bosun Osifowora, found it ridiculous that there still exist some practitioners in the legal profession refusing to move with time and take advantage of the ease of doing business through the use of IT.
He shared his thought recently on social media where he complained that some of his colleagues were against virtual hearing of a case ongoing in court. The legal mind revealed that the lawyers wrote and insisted on open court.
“I just heard the most heart breaking news and disgusting news now from High Court sitting at Ota. That lawyers wrote to court against virtual sitting, that they prefer coming physically to Court than doing the virtual hearing,” he complained bitterly.
According to information available to Freelanews, it is noteworthy to know that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), various non-essential sectors of the economy of most countries of the world went into a complete shutdown; from private sector organizations to banking, and even the judiciary.
But in order to stay afloat, many businesses have embraced the new normal of a digitally enabled business ecosystem. And this included the judiciary in Nigeria.
According to a recent directive by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, various heads of courts are mandated to commence virtual hearings of cases.
“Ota has the most terrible roads in Nigeria. Aside this, I was informed by the court’s registrar that virtual court has been cancelled on the request of lawyers and we have to revert to open court. This is sad and anti-developmental and anti progress,” Osifowora noted with disgust.
The advent of COVID-19 pandemic brought in its disadvantages and advantages which included the ability to work from home or a stationary location in conducting businesses, especially in a country that is bedeviled with poor road networks.
“Whoever thought that lawyers will make such request! Whatever happened to buying data and sitting in the comfort of your office and conducting trial. Now I know some people are born to suffer and will remain so all their lives. I officially give up on this profession and the practitioners. Sad, very sad right now,” he said.
Following this directive by the CJN and the issuance of the NJC Guidelines on virtual hearing, the Chief Judge of Lagos State signed the “Lagos State Judiciary Remote Hearing of Cases (COVID-19 Pandemic Period) Practice Direction” (the “Practice Direction”) in May 2020. The essence of the Practice Direction is to ensure the hearing and determination of urgent and time-bound cases using digital platforms like Zoom, Skype or any other video and audio conferencing platforms approved by the Court.
On why he thought his colleagues opted for the onerous task of open hearing compared to the comfort of virtual case, the Lagos based lawyer said;
“More like some people benefit (albeit little) from physical appearances in court by charging clients ‘appearance fee’. So with visual hearing, that aspect is cut off and they are not ingenious enough to charge the client same fees in some other ways. The convenience and ease that comes with virtual hearing is lit for the upward mobile lawyers, but the conventional ones prefer the everyday appearances, regardless of the inconvenience. Some have been seen during such hearings using phones, some cant deal with the technical issues, some just believe this is the way it is, and it will never change. So they’d rather hold on to conventional ways than seek change. Simple.”
As at the time of publishing this, Freelanews was yet to ascertain if the Lagos State pronouncement has any effect in the jurisdiction of Osifowora’s case, which was in Ota, Ogun State.