Covid-19 Lockdown: NJC Committee Recommends Remote Hearing by Courts

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The 10-man committee set up the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Ibrahim Muhammad, to come up with urgent practical strategic measures to ensure courts continue to function despite the lockdown and COVID-19 challenges yesterday submitted its report in Abuja.

According to Thisday, the report, which was submitted by the sub-committee led by the Acting President Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Mensem, recommended essentially the adoption of remote hearing by courts in view of the reality of the pandemic.

Others in the sub-committee who were present yesterday include Justice Ishaq Bello, Chief Judge of the FCT; Justice John Tsoho, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court; Justice Benedict Kanyip, President of the National Industrial Court and senior lawyer, Mr. D. D. Dodo (SAN).

Checks revealed that the committee essentially adopted the NJC Circular No. NJC/CIR/HOC/II/656 dated April 6, 2020, which recommended that all heads of courts and judicial bodies continue to include the use of appropriate technology on virtual or remote hearings.

They were also required to provide strategic measures and guidance for courts and where physical hearings must be held, they should to do so sparingly and in line with appropriate regulations and guidelines issued by the health protocols approved by the Nigeria Centre Disease Control (NCDC).

This, it was learnt, should cover things like access control, infrared temperature detector/thermometer, space requirement per person, physical distancing within the court premises, protective gears, sanitation and periodic decontamination of the courtrooms amongst other measures.

Every court/judicial body administrator is also required to provide adequate safety equipment like face masks and sanitary stations with hand washing facilities to the judges, justices, staff and general court users.

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The NJC at its first virtual meeting held on April 22 and 23 had set up a 10-man committee headed by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour to develop a practical strategy for how courts would continue to function in the COVID-19 pandemic era.

Justice Muhammad who doubles as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), gave the committee 14 days period to turn in its report.

Other members of the committee include: Justice Kashim Zannah and Justice O. A. Ojo.

Also members of the committee are three private practising Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs)- President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro; A. B. Mahmoud and Dodo.

Thisday

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