Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said that discussion are on to provide virtual platforms in correctional centres for suspects to give evidence in custody without being physically present in court.
Malami gave the assurance on Thursday, when he hosted webinar/virtual interactive session with attorneys-general and heads of courts of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
In a keynote address at the session, Malami noted that in order to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID -19 pandemic, the ministry has improved on its ICT infrastructure to enable it discharge 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 in establishing 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 public to further minimize the person-to-person contact between ministry officials and members of the 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 views arising from the CoVID-19 pandemic and harmonise resolutions on the way forward.
Malami said the advent of CoVID-19 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.
The minister noted that the justice system is founded on the constitutional principle of 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 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.