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The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, has charged Nigerian judges to key into the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), saying it will help them in quick dispensation of justice.
Speaking at the 2014 refresher course for judicial officers organised by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in collaboration with the Open Society Foundation (OSF), the CJN stated that the judiciary must use ICT for the benefit of citizens noting that "the ICT revolution is sweeping across the world and computers have become a handy technological tool for solving many of the societal problems."
Justice Mukhtar who was represented by Justice John Fabiyi, a justice of the Supreme Court, said that judicial officers had no choice other than to key into this process of ICT otherwise they might find themselves quite unsuitable for the 21st century Nigeria judiciary.
According to her, the rapid developments in ICT opened up new opportunities that were unthinkable only a few years ago.
"Around the world, several reforms have been introduced to allow the use and exchange of electronic data and documents in the national judicial systems and at this age and time, we should brace up and embrace this technological developments if we do not want to be left behind," she added.
She recalled that in July 2012, the Nigeria Judiciary Information Technology Policy Document was launched, adding: "This policy highlights the road map for the implementation of information and communication technology in the Nigeria judiciary.
While asking the judges to also embrace the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) 2011, the CJN said, "this piece of legislation has become a watershed in the Nigerian human rights jurisprudence. It becomes imperative that judicial officers have a proper understanding of the Act, it's requirements and means of compliance. This is because the judiciary has been vested with the exclusive jurisdiction over the interpretation of the provisions of the Act."
In a welcome address, the Administrator of the NJI, Justice Umaru Eri, said that the refresher course was organised by the Institute to promote efficiency and improve the quality of justice delivery in the nation's courts.
He said: "The course is aimed at acquainting the judicial officers with the use and application of ICT, in the performance of their duties."
According to him the judiciary cannot live in isolation. We are part and parcel of the global village now governed and galvanised by ICT, the judiciary must, therefore embrace it.
He said judicial officers were reputed to be knowledgable in law, adding that there should be no harm in gaining knowledge in other areas including the use of ICT.
According to him, the use of ICT is now more compelling with the launching of the Nigeria Judiciary Information Technology Policy Document.
Eri said as part of the refresher course, the Freedom of Information Act would also be considered.
He pointed out that "the FOI Act has radically altered in a most fundamental way, how the three organs of government relate with the ordinary citizen. It supersedes the Official Secrets Act of 1911 and the relevant provisions of both the criminal and penal codes, amongst other relevant aspects of the extant Civil Service Rules."
He noted that even though the FOI Act had existed for three years there had been conflicting decisions by the courts that had adjudicated on the cases involving the Act.
He said: "These conflicting decisions reveal lack of proper understanding of the purport, intendment and extent of the provisions of the Act.
"This development is not appropriate, especially, as the judiciary remains the most viable and veritable platform, and indeed the only functional forum for the resolution of all FOI disputes.
"This is why the NJI accepted to include in this refresher course and training for judicial officers on the provisions and implications of the FOI Act especially as regards the expected role of the judiciary in its implementation and interpretation."