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Mukhtar raises hope for automated courts
Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar

The outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, at the twilight of her tenure, has raised the hope of full automation of courts across the nation’s judiciary.

With the automated courts in place, filing of court processes and communication, among others, will be done electronically.

At an event organised for the presentation of the Nigeria Case Management System and the inauguration of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council Data Centres held on November 10, Justice Mukhtar said the project was “to improve court efficiency, access to justice, and transparency”.

The CJN, who retires on November 20 on attainment of the mandatory retirement age of 70, described the event as laying “solid foundation for tomorrow’s fully automated court”.

The entire aspects of the project, encapsulated under the Judicial Information Technology Policy of the nation’s judiciary, was said to have been first conceived in 2012 under the leadership of the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher.

There are said to be currently 16 pilot centres for the project in the country. They are: the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal (Abuja and Lagos), the Federal High Court (Abuja and Lagos), the National Industrial Court (Abuja and Lagos), the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and the High Court of Bayelsa State.

Other pilot centres are the High Court of Borno State, the High Court of Ebonyi State, the High Court of Kaduna State, the High Court of Kogi State, the High Court of Lagos State and the National Judicial Council.

International and national partners especially the National Centre for State Courts of the United States of America and the Galaxy Backbone Nigeria Plc are said to be among those who have contributed immensely to the project.

In fact, the Chairman of the Judicial Information Technology Policy Committee, Justice Kashim Zannah, who is also the Chief Judge of Borno State, said the cost implication of the project could not be ascertained because of the level of supports the partners had given to the project.

He said, while speaking with journalists after the event, “I won’t say cheap or expensive because where we should have spent millions, we got half from the National Centre for State Courts (United States). So that made it unrealistic for us that it is this amount.”

Though specific time has not been given to achieve the full integration of the initiative into the Nigerian courts system, Justice Zannah reiterated that efforts were being made to train staff and judges on the aspects of the system.

He said, “Like I told you, we are going to learn and move, teach our staff how to use it, our judges to assimilate and then we move on to the next stage.”

Giving an insight into what the project entails the CJN said, “What we are witnessing today is the solid foundation for tomorrow’s fully automated court. Indeed, this aligns with the vision of transforming from the current predominantly manual court processes and its attendant weaknesses, to technological solutions ‘tailor-made’ for the Nigerian judiciary.”

She added that, on a recent visit to South Korea – one of the federations of the world with the highest level of integrated court technology excellence, she realised that the country had spent 30 years to attain its present level.

She also said, “This illustrates that it takes time, patience and determination to do things well and that initial successes should not lead to indolence, rather it should serve as an impetus to strive towards improvement and sustainability.”

Justice Zannah, while explaining the activities of his committee since it was inaugurated by Justice Musdapher (retd.) on January 30, 2012, said Justice Mukhtar made court automation her priority on assumption of office.

The Borno State Chief Judge said the Judicial Information Technology Policy document was subsequently produced on July 10, 2012.

He said, “Given the daunting terms of reference, the success subsequently achieved in implementation stems from the unwavering support received from the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar.

“My Lord immediately made court automation her priority and remained steadfast. Her approach was hands-on. She actively participated with the committee in reviewing the best practices to adopt, including a trip to South Korea, the only federation with an effectively integrated court technology.”

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