Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen

CHIEF Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen said yesterday that there would be no more manual filing of court processes at the Supreme Court from July 16.

All communication between lawyers and the court would be done electronically, he said.

This was as Onnoghen called for constitutional amendment to end executive control of judiciary at the state level.

Justice Onnoghen spoke at the Fifth Criminal Justice Reform Conference in Asaba, the Delta State capital, organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Criminal Justice Reform Committee chaired by Chief Arthur Obi Okafor (SAN).

Its theme is: “Criminal Justice Reforms in Nigeria: The journey so far.”

The CJN, represented by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) Administrator Justice Rosaline Bozimo (rtd), hoped that the new policy on electronic filings as well as the case management systems software deployment would be “funded to fruition”.

He said: “In a bid to enhance justice administration and provide our citizens with the justice system that they deserve, the manual forms of communication within Nigerian courts will soon be phased out. Henceforth, lawyers who have acquired the legal email can now communicate electronically with the courts.

“The Supreme Court will only serve processes by electronic means (legal mail) on all matters. This will become effective on the 16th of July 2018 and mandatory. All new filings as from 16th July 2018 must bear counsel’s legal email address.

“To ensure compliance, it is also imperative that all heads of courts acquire legal email addresses for their courts from the Judicial Information Technology Policy Committee, especially for their litigation department staff. All courts are also encouraged to start using the email for serving lawyers.

“In addition, communication between the various judicial bodies will very soon be through official electronic system only, thereby harnessing the benefits of the system in terms of confidentiality, integrity and availability.”

Justice Onnoghen reiterated the need for the judiciary’s independence, saying: “It is quite often said that the litmus test to find out how free and democratic any nation is, is to look at its judiciary to find out what powers the nation is prepared to concede to this vital partner in governance.”

He said while the judiciary at the federal level enjoys financial independence, as it receives its funding directly from the Federation Account, it was not so for the states, as Chief Judges have to wait on governors to release state judiciary funds.

Senate President Bukola Saraki, represented by Prof. Nuhu Jamo, said the problem of prison congestion and other ills affecting the justice system must be addressed.

“The figure of 240 holding facilities in the country points to a legal system that has long been neglected and in need of adequate attention. Similarly, the 66 per cent figure representing the inmates awaiting trial supports the call for special courts that would help speed up the process, as relevant.”

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