The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said that virtual court proceedings will boost Nigeria’s economy.
He stated this on Monday at the inauguration of the virtual court sitting facilities deployed at the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja.
He said, “This initiative will in no small measure help boost the economy by ensuring that funds meant for the movement of the inmates would be channeled to other essential areas of needs in the Correctional Centres, and assist the country to meet up with global best practice in terms of the Administration of the Criminal Justice.”
According to the Justice Minister, the virtual court would end disruptions by making it possible for evidence of suspects in custody to be taken without their physical presence in court, adding that it would equally guarantee the safety of suspects and prison officials.
Malami said, “This system would equally ensure speedy dispensation of trials in line with section 36(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which provides that every person shall be entitled to fair hearing within a reasonable time. It would also eliminate the issue of difficulties in conveying the inmates to court and would further ensure the safety and security of the inmates and law enforcement officers.
“We are no longer constrained by mobility, space and time in the justice delivery on account of accommodation of the virtual court sitting facilities and deployment of incidental technology.
“I assure you that the Virtual Court Proceedings are in compliance with the provisions of section 36(3) of the Constitution, which provides for public court sitting or hearing. These virtual court proceedings meet up with the expectation of the Constitution and are not private hearings but open to the respective counsel involved, the litigants (inmates) and the general public at large.
“In addition, it is important to note that this virtual court hearing will not in any way contravene the provision of section 36(6) of the 1999 Constitution which provides for the arraignment, taking of evidence, tendering of documents, cross-examination and general conduct of criminal proceedings. In as much as these are done in accordance with the said provision, the virtual hearing would be valid.”
The AGF added that the project was birthed by the Ministry of Justice in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and Japan Government towards deploying Virtual Court Proceedings in Correctional Centres nationwide with the Kuje prison as a pilot project.