08 Aug 2020 GOODWILL MESSAGE AT THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION-SECTION ON BUSINESS LAW 14TH ANNUAL BUSINESS LAW E-CONFERENCE
Thank you for having me and for the opportunity to deliver a goodwill message at the Nigerian Bar Association-Section on Business Law 14th Annual Business Law e-Conference. That you are hosting this as a virtual conference serves as a reminder of the times that we are living in.
Let me start by commending Mr Seni Adio SAN and his team for putting this conference together. Events like these show our resilience as a people and our ability to confront challenges.
Your theme for this year’s conference “Business Unusual: Digital Acceleration for Growth in a New World,” indeed captures the mood in the world today. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to stretch possibilities and figure out new ways of doing old things. In Nigeria, we cannot continue to avoid the conversation. We must take actions to ensure that, should we ever find ourselves in a pandemic situation like we are now, we will not be offering excuses. Instead, we will continue running all sectors of our economy with the aid of technology.
We especially need to see these improvements in the justice sector. Just two days ago I saw in the news the Supreme Court has ruled that virtual courtrooms are not unconstitutional. So, with the legality of the process sorted, the bigger issues come into view. Virtual courtrooms require virtual infrastructure. But as was noted just a few days earlier by the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Abimbola while he was speaking at the sidelines of the inauguration of the Family Court in Ibadan, here in Oyo State the infrastructure for e-courts are non-existent. So, the courts here have continued having physical sittings.
What this means is that our administration has no other options than to work with the judiciary to ensure that we set up the digital infrastructure needed for virtual courts as soon as possible. A committee has been set up to look into this. But the truth remains that even if we have this digital architecture in place, we also need better-built environments within the court that this architecture will support. So, aside from the digitization of the courtroom, we need more rooms so that more sessions can sit at the same time, and justice can be accessed quicker. I have learnt that we only have thirty-four courtrooms and a good number are in a dilapidated state. We have to renovate these rooms. We have already agreed to complete the abandoned building project for the Customary Court of Appeal and the Judicial Service Commission Complex.
Once we have the appropriate architecture in place, it should be possible to carry out all court processes virtually. For example, why does a lawyer have to travel to Ring Road to file a complaint or apply for a discharge order?
I believe that as you deliberate at this conference, you will come up with even more innovative ways through which we can apply the use of technology in enhancing court processes not only during this pandemic but also post-COVID-19. Technology is, after all, not just for today but for the future as well.
So, let me again wish you a successful and rewarding conference this year and hope that the Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association continues to lead the way in providing solutions to the challenges posed by a new World Order. I look forward to getting recommendations out of this conference that will improve the justice system to the benefit of the good people of Oyo State. ~Governor Seyi Makinde, July 16, 2020.