Will COVID-19 disrupt the Nigerian judicial system?

A remarkable trend has changed the criminal justice framework. The spread of coronavirus has also affected the operation of legal business worldwide. A lot of high-risk countries have halted their judicial proceedings. At least ten law firms have closed their offices in Milan, Northern Italy. It’s also where a wide cluster of infections have occurred.
This reflects earlier closures of large law firms in mainland China, Hong Kong, and other Far Eastern territories. While Baker McKenzie has now reopened its London office, more closures in the City appear likely as the disease expands globally.

Last week, the International Bar Association (IBA) canceled two conferences in Tokyo. This is due to fear of the danger of foreign travel and the possibility of contagion resulting in broad gatherings of delegates from across the globe. The London Book Fair also cancelled one of the UK’s largest book events this week. There have been similar reactions by other organizers of legal conferences scheduled to take place in the coming months.

The consequences of judicial courts falling victim to the coronavirus pandemic may have major ripple consequences. Postponing prosecutions and hearings could cause suspects to live in jail for longer. Police officers could wind up making arrests for even the most egregious offenses. This is to prevent crowding criminals who may not be willing to pursue court proceedings within the timeline prescribed by statute.

The State of China

China is guiding the world not only in the drastic steps it is implementing to track the transmission of the pandemic but also in the technical approaches it is bringing to the continuing administration of justice.
When towns joined the lockdown and new hospitals were constructed in a week, the Chinese courts needed to respond to the need to perform their electronic business.

The Supreme People’s Court of China has also encouraged the usage of’ mobile micro court’ on the WeChat social networking site in 12 provinces and cities to enable courts to hold Internet trials. According to a report, Court representatives must show on camera in several situations with broad emergency measures to deal with coronavirus. This change is one of the unique steps contained in the proposed ‘Beast of a Bill’ that ministers plan to pass into Parliament by the end of this month.

The reports note that it could arrive “as early as next week” but what appears is that the immediate suspension of the process would include all criminal and civil cases and, in this way, go further than envisaged with the original creation of electronic courts.

Is this possible in Nigeria?

The truth is the pandemic will disrupt legal proceedings, judgments, and convictions. With the case of coronavirus spreading and organizations trying to curtail the spread, legal courts have to take drastic measures. Measures ensuring the safety of its lawyers, Judges, defendants and the rest. Nigeria has only recorded a few cases and is not rated high-risk yet. Hopefully, she can put things in place on time to cut the spread of coronavirus. Adoption of online courts with high supervision will reduce social contact and enhance social distancing. Cases should be treated according to matters of urgency. This way, the coronavirus can be kept at bay. With a little luck, the judicial system can run as it used to or even better.

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