All is set for the usage of the electronic filing, case management, and virtual court sitting at the Federal High Court with Damaturu Judicial Division as a pilot state via www.fhcportal.ng.
At the official launching and demonstration of the all-in-one application software on Thursday 13th January 2022 at Yobe State Capital, the Presiding Judge of Federal High Court Damaturu Division, Hon. Justice Fadima Murtala Aminu says this technology will help in curtailing the need for bringing litigants to Court with its attendant risk involved thereby promoting better and efficient justice administration.
Addressing stakeholders on Thursday in Damaturu, during a training session on e-filing, e-hearing, e-case management application, and virtual court sitting system and process, Hon. Justice Aminu said the decision of the court to incorporate ICT by the deployment of software for e-filing, E-Hearing Notice and E-Case Management is borne out of the need to bring justice close to the people to eliminate the risks, stress, and challenges associated with bringing prisoners or inmates from the Medium Correctional Centre located in Potiskum Local Government 240 kilometers away from the state capital.
While noting that the correctional facility is the nearest to the state capital, Hon. Justice Aminu highlighted that the vandalized Correctional Centre in the state is yet to be restored to function optimally.
Among other hitches associated with conveying inmates to the only Federal High Court in Yobe state located in Damaturu, she noted that lack of operational vehicle, fuel, tyres, and similar issues are the front burner.
According to the judge, even when officers of the Nigeria Correctional Service manage to put their vehicle on the road, they are always apprehensive of being attacked as a result of the insurgency concern in the state.
“As a result of the challenges highlighted hampering the attendance of prisoners to attend their trial in the State Capital, the Federal High Court decided to incorporate ICT by deployment of software for e-filing, E-Hearing Notice and E-Case Management and a trial version of Virtual or Remote Court sitting with the hope that launching this technology would curtail the need for bringing litigants to Court with its attendant risk involved thereby promoting better and efficient justice administration.
“To enable the Court overcome the above listed challenges, the Court is hosting the reserved domain server https://fhcportal.ng thereby enabling Counsel to have an account registered on the portal for ease of filing and case management administration. Now, a hybrid of the traditional and remote Court sitting or online Court sittings will be adopted by the Damaturu Division of the Federal High Court henceforth.
“This Hon. Court would like to promote and encourage virtual Court sitting, which is to be conducted according to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, applicable laws and the rules of this Court.
“The COVID-19 Guidelines of the Federal High Court would be utilised in the remote hearing of matters. For eg electronic mode of service will be employed and time will begin to run from the date the message has been sent either through email, whatsup, telegraph or text messages via our mobile devices or as may even be directed by the Court. The statutory service provisions in the Court rules will complement the aforementioned hearing notices and does not replace the default statutory service provisions.
“We want to encourage that all Court related business that can be transacted without physical visits to the Courts premises to be transacted through other available alternative channels. The traditional physical filing of process would continue to be used hand in hand with the e-filing.
“The caveat is that all processes must be electronically filed before the physical filing. The beauty of e-filing is it can be done anywhere, anytime, any day. Every process filed shall be signed and sealed by Counsel. The responsibility of monitoring filed process with the Court lies on the Counsel right up to completion. Counsel are to note that the date of filing shall be the date the filing fees were paid by the filing party pursuant to the rules of Court and COVID-19 Practice Direction, 2020.
The virtual Court sitting, she emphasized will be conducted according to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, applicable laws, and the rules of the Honourable Court, adding that COVID-19 Guidelines of the Federal High Court would be utilized in the remote hearing of matters.
Justice Aminu said the electronic mode of service will begin to run from a date to be communicated through email, WhatsApp, telegraph, or text messages via mobile devices or as may be directed by the Court.
While noting that e-filing can be done anywhere, anytime, any day, she urged counsels to ensure that every process filed shall be signed and sealed.
“I implore Counsel to acquaint themselves with this technology which is why we initiated this one-day Training Course to sensitize and familiarize stakeholders and participants on the automation and digitalization of case filing, e-payment, e-service or hearing notification management, cause list management, and Virtual Court process & system” she added.
She also expressed gratitude to the facilitator of the electronic Court automation, Mr. Fatai Abiodun whom she described as indefatigable, and his organization 4tune Technologies Ltd for the deployment and installation of the ready-made portal, www.fhcportal.ng
The lead trainer Director 4tune Technologies Ltd, Mr. Fatai Abiodun in his remarks said the need to adopt technology will ease stress and improve efficiency in the administration of justice as demonstrated by the physical training showcased at the launching of the application software.
Mr. Fatai explained that the choice of choosing Damaturu as a pilot state was strategic and to appreciate the effort of the presiding judge, Justice Aminu of her resilience to the success of the implementation.
“As an ICT Firm, we’re very much concerned about the administration of Justice. It’s no longer rocket science. The essence of digitalization is mainly to ensure efficiency by reducing time, effort, and cost, as each task is performed seamlessly online, at any time, and from anywhere, whilst eliminating human error.
“With the digitalization and automation of the filing of processes from start to finish, users will have access to the portal anytime and any day, and the court can successfully manage all the processes filed to eradicate the issuance of conflicting courts orders.
“Since we launched the application online, more than 800 lawyers have registered and this clearly shows that the lawyers are ready for the usage. Today, we are happy for the clear understanding of the application which is built on user-friendliness and easy usage.
“The era of submitting process through the flash drive to the court is no longer needed, as an electronic docket would be created for any registered profile on the portal for ease of filing, file reusability, and case administration.” Mr. Fatai
In attendance were the Yobe Chief Judge, State Hon. Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, State Commissioner of Police, State Director NDLEA, State Prison Boss, Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, and the member of the Bar and the general public amongst others.
In his remark, the Yobe State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Hon. Saleh Samajah expressed optimum appreciation for the wonderful initiative.
“Let me confess that what I saw today is beyond my perception from what I was expected, I urge all the stakeholders to put it to great use. This is a very good innovation to the administration of justice.
“The state has now become a locus classicus of technology in a trial, I cannot thank my lord much for this initiative and our state high court will surely go this way.” Hon. Saleh Samajah