Mr. Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has asked the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) to make arrangements for judges “to hear urgent applications via Skype or Zoom during the lockdown”.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Muhammad, had earlier in the week issued a directive suspending all court sittings indefinitely following the lockdown measures put in place by the federal government and some state governments to curb the spread of coronavirus.
In a letter addressed to the CJN, Falana SAN said: “Since the federal government has relaxed the lockdown by allowing markets, shops and stalls selling food and groceries to open to customers between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm daily, the National Judicial Council (NJC) ought to review the suspension of court sittings to enable them to attend to urgent matters.”
The human rights lawyer said the review is necessary so as to “ensure that thousands of people who are either awaiting trial or under investigation are not subjected to unlawful detention”.
“The review has become necessary in view of the fact that motions for the bail of many criminal suspects and applications to secure the enforcement of the fundamental right to personal liberty of other detainees are pending in several courts in all the states of the federation and in the federal capital territory,” he said.
“In addition, the return dates in respect of several ex parte orders made by magistrates for the remand of a number of criminal suspects which have since expired are due to be quashed or renewed to extend time for further investigation.
“More so that the heads of the various courts are vested with the power to designate judges and magistrates to attend to urgent matters in accordance with the laws establishing such courts. However, in order to observe the social distancing directive we suggest that arrangements be made for Judges to hear urgent applications via Skype or Zoom,” he said.
It will be recalled that the CNN earlier reported that Kenya’s judiciary released about 4,800 prisoners and that most of the cases were heard through Skype and Zoom.