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Bayo Akinlade Esq, former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikorodu branch and human rights activist, has expressed concerns over the Lagos State Judiciary’s decision to charge fees for virtual hearing services and the implementation of the Bail Information Management Services (BIMS).

In a statement, Akinlade argued that the current power supply issues, high cost of fuel and food prices, and the recent measures taken by the Lagos State Government requiring civil servants to work only 3 to 4 times a week, should have prompted the managers of the Justice Sector to be more innovative in their approach to issues of great importance, such as the economic conditions of citizens.

Akinlade pointed out that Lagos State Judges and Magistrates are facing inadequate court rooms, with some unable to sit for more than 3 days a week or work for more than 5 hours a day due to the lack of electricity supply. He believes that virtual hearings would have been a viable, less expensive, effective, and efficient alternative, but instead, the Judiciary has “weaponized” the very thing that would have put less burden on Judges, Lawyers, and Litigants.

The former NBA chairman questioned the advice the Judiciary is taking, noting that the Judiciary within its ranks has very little internal expertise regarding technology to be able to counter any external suggestions that may be self-serving and may not meet the ends of justice the citizens are hoping for. He stated that the Judiciary has only put a price tag on virtual hearings but has not shown any capacity to make it efficient, effective, and sustainable.

Regarding the Bail Information Management Services (BIMS), Akinlade argued that the Judiciary has placed an extra price tag on another essential aspect of justice delivery. He highlighted the existing bottlenecks of bail perfection, such as requirements to pay taxes, surety approval system, arraignments, and remand proceedings, all of which are currently administered ineffectively, causing defendants to spend days in correctional facilities. The Judiciary, he said, has added another burden through the requirements for BIMS.

Akinlade called on the Bar, particularly Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Lagos State, to take up this challenge and stand up for the common man. He also urged the Attorney General of Lagos State to intervene, noting that the government doesn’t pay for services offered by the Judiciary. He emphasized that the Judiciary is accountable to the people and should be transparent in its dealings, as it is the third arm of government whose income is derived from the sweat of citizens and collective resources.

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