Malami Hosts Stakeholders’ Webinar on Post COVID-19 Judiciary

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has on Thursday hosted webinar/virtual interactive session
with attorneys-general and heads of courts of the 36 states and the federal capital territory.

This is contained in a statement issued by Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, which was
made available to newsmen in Abuja on Thursday 4th day of June, 2020.

In his keynote address at the session, Malami noted that in order to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the Ministry has improved on its ICT infrastructure to enable the Ministry carry out
its duties.

“The Ministry has completed the establishment of ICT Studios and the deployment of Galaxy Backbone dedicated lines that will facilitate the
prosecution of criminal cases as well as the defence of civil cases using the virtual platform”.

“As the biggest Law Chamber in Nigeria and if not in Africa, the Federal Ministry of Justice must continue to lead the process of innovation in the administration of justice. To complement this
effort, the Nigerian Correctional Service is also being engaged on establishment of Studios in the Correctional Centres to make it possible for evidence of suspects in custody to be taken without their physical presence in court. This will ensure that the administration
of justice is not disrupted,” he said.

Malami noted that ICT is being introduced in the receipt and processing of correspondence between the Ministry and the general
public to further minimize the person-to-person contact between officials of the Ministry and members of the general public.

He reiterated the desire to work with stakeholders to articulate a holistic response to the challenges posed by the CoVID-19 pandemic to the administration of justice in the country.

The Minister also emphasized that there was need for a paradigm shift in the administration of justice through the deployment of appropriate
technologies to drive the administration of justice.

He said the purpose of the virtual meeting was to provide the platform for engagement and articulation of our collective views on the issues
arising from the CoVID-19 pandemic and harmonise our resolutions on
the way forward.

Malami said the advent of CoVID-19 and the efforts to manage its spread and reduce the human and economic devastation occasioned by the
pandemic, has made it imperative to adopt systems that will reduce the physical presence or involvement of persons in the judicial process
through the deployment of technology to achieve the same objective for
which physical presence was intended,” he said.

The Minister noted that the justice system is founded on the
constitutional principle of fundamental rights to fair hearing that
requires the court to hear and determine cases in public and the
physical presence of the suspects or parties in court.

He noted that in view of the COVID-19 situation, it has become
imperative for the Government to put in place, legislations and
policies that will engender a justice system that promotes
social/physical distancing through the application of appropriate
technologies in the dispensation of justice and the promotion of rule
of law.

He used the opportunity to commend and appreciate the Heads of Courts
and Attorneys-General who have already started the process of
deploying and applying virtual court rooms and proceedings to promote
social distancing and minimize the physical presence of court users.
However, there have been arguments as to whether the application of
virtual court hearing meets the constitutional requirements of fair

“I am of the view that this meeting offers an opportunity for further
discussion on the issue and a common position taken. This is without
prejudice to the ongoing deliberations in the National Assembly to
amend section 36(2) & (3) of the Constitution. As stakeholders, we
have a duty to ensure that the pandemic is not allowed to ground the
administration of justice machinery to a halt. We must continue to
forge the needed synergy and collaboration to administer justice in
the face of the pandemic and in line with global best practice”.

On measures to decongest Correctional Centres nation-wide, the
Minister expressed appreciation that about six thousand, five hundred
and ninety (6590) inmates have so far been released through the work
of the Presidential Committee on the decongestion of Correctional
Centres and that of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative
of Mercy Committee.

The Minister said concerted efforts are being made by the Federal
Government to strengthen judicial and democratic institutions for the
benefit of our people which he described as critical to the attainment
of the anti-corruption drive of the current administration and the
overall improvement in the administration of justice.

Malami disclosed that the Federal Government has constituted
Committees on Implementation of Directive on Designated Corruption
Prosecution Courts to actualize the directive of the Chief Justice of
Nigeria to Heads of Courts to designate specific courts for the
prosecution of all corruption related cases with the aim of
fast-tracking their completion.

He informed the participants that the Federal Government has
established a Committee on the Review of Judicial Salaries and conditions of Service principally to ensure that the welfare of judicial officers reflect current realities.