The need for purpose-built-technology solutions for the court and administration of justice system has become necessary to improve access to justice by Nigerians. This position was advocated by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, the outgoing President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Paul Usoro, SAN, and others at a 2-day virtual conference organised by LawPavilion Business Solutions Limited, in collaboration with Telnet Group.
The Vice President expressed his elation at the willingness and rapid adoption of technology exemplified by the Supreme Court in giving its stamp of approval to virtual court sittings. He also drew attention to the fact that technology has aided the democratization of law and justice in Nigeria and called for purpose-built solutions for the administration of justice in Nigeria by local legal and technology companies in the country, pledging the Federal Government’s commitment to support tech companies Nigerians adapt to the new global realities powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated technology solutions.
In his remarks, the CJN alluded to the giant strides that had been taken by the apex court in recent years by adopting the use of court management software, demonstrating a marked departure from the analogue system of adjudication. He reiterated the support of the judiciary in adopting new technologies that accelerate the delivery of justice to Nigerians.
Also speaking, Usoro, the NBA President, pointed out that access to justice and upholding rule of law will remain a mirage where the average citizen is ignorant of his rights under the law or is deprived of widespread access to regulatory bodies and government agencies that can ensure that citizens’ rights are not trampled upon and commended the LawRights App that had just being unveiled by LawPavilion, as a ground-breaking solution for Nigerians, including stakeholders in the administration of justice and legal services industries.
The participants described the conference as timely, considering the important role technology now occupies in provision of legal services and administration of justice in Nigeria.
One of the highpoints of the conference was the unveiling of the E-Library of the Laws of Lagos State on the LawPavilion platform by His Excellency, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Executive Governor of Lagos State, represented by Mr. Moyo Onigbanjo, SAN, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Lagos State.
‘Working in collaboration with the Law Reform Commission of Lagos State, the e-library platform will make the Laws of Lagos State easily accessible and relevant for the use of Lagosians and the public. The Annotated e-laws of Lagos State will also highlight how the courts and populace interact with the laws, leveraging on machine learning and artificial intelligence. This approach will ensure that new laws and decisions of court are data-driven, with its finger on the pulse of the general citizenry,’ he explained.
Another highlight was the unveiling of the LawRights app, a solution from the stables of LawPavilion, for the use of the general public to know and understand their constitutional rights, have access to lawyers and law firms from within the app and where necessary, initiate the process of adjudication where rights have been abused or trampled upon.
While speaking with focus on young Nigerians, Gbenga Sesan, CEO of Paradigm Initiatives, pointed out there was need to use technology to accelerate access to justice, especially as the country adjusts to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing several examples of interaction with law enforcement agencies which ended in wanton abuse of the human rights and dignity of the affected victims.
He advocated for a rapid adoption of a law that enshrines the digital rights of citizens and pointed out that Nigeria could become a leader among to other African countries in this regard. He concluded that innovation cannot thrive in an environment where justice is stifled and rights trampled upon with impunity and no redress, calling for practical demonstration of justice in the protection of rights, especially digital rights.
During panel discussion, in response to the question about the readiness of the Nigerian judiciary to adapt technology as needed in a post COVID-19 environment, his Lordship, Hon Justice Olukayode Ariwoola (JSC) submitted that the Nigerian judiciary has demonstrated a willingness to adopt technologies and adapt court processes, in a bid to ensure that delivery of justice is not delayed or hampered.
Dr Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, in his remark, said that while there isn’t yet a national consensus about the adoption of technology, there needs to be more thinking about how technology can be harnessed to facilitate the delivery of justice, with the corresponding financial and human resources investments required. He pointed out that there are still significant pockets of technologically challenged members of the Bar and the Bench.
In terms of whether the legal service and judiciary are walking the talk when it comes to using technology to enhance and improve delivery of services, Mr Folorunsho Aliu, MD of Telnet Group took an optimistic view that the sector and Nigeria is on a journey to getting better in how technology is used and harnessed for justice and economic growth. He was of the opinion that lessons and ideas that will emerge from the conference will be instrumental towards more widespread adoption and use of legal technology in Nigeria.
During the breakout session on managing law firms and legal departments, Sesan Sobowale of Union Bank Legal Department and his counterpart, Raymond Mgbeokwere of First Bank shared unique insights about the deployment of bespoke LawPavilion Case Management Solution for Legal Departments, to automate the administration and coordination of their legal teams while Mr Seun Abimbola, former Attorney General of Oyo State shared insights of his experience in running a government department and urged that bespoke legal technologies solutions were the way forward to meet the competing demands on the legal department or law office, particularly in this pandemic.
The publisher of ESQ Magazine, Lere Fashola, said that the eco-system is both an evolution, looking at how far the legal services industry had come in Nigeria and also a revolution, because COVID-19 has altered how people interact and do businesses, thereby necessitating the adoption of virtual court hearings and progressive use of several technology platform to provide services to clients.
There were several engaging discussion and panel sessions, including a session displaying e-filing and court management processes and solutions, aimed at accelerating case management of the entire court system from end to end as well.
The conference featured showcase pieces of new and existing solutions within the legal services industry and in the areas of digital transformation and indeed opened a new vista in the annals of law and technology innovation in Nigeria.