Apr 29, 2020

Covid-19: When the Judiciary is No Longer the Last Hope of the Common Man. By Annakar Hallelujah Tor, ACArb

It has been three weeks and counting since the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (the Chief Justice of Nigeria) issued the directives for all superior courts of record to close indefinitely, citing primarily the protection of Judicial officer and court staff as reasons for shutting down the Justice Temples across the country.

However, as our courtrooms slammed shut to keep away the corona virus pandemic from spreading and in a bid to protect Judicial officers and their staff, little was done to secure the access of the common man to justice through the courtrooms; famed for being his last resort on the quest for justice. More disturbingly is how these developments impacts not only not the administration of justice but in the presumption of innocence of those awaiting bail hearing and standing trials in determination of their innocence or guilt, which can only be fulfilled in line with the provisions of our extant laws that requires a formal courtroom hearing. 

Also impacted negatively by these developments are the heralds of the common man - litigation lawyers who eke out their living from courtroom appearances and advocacy on behalf of the common man. With the hearing of cases forestalled indefinitely, it is hard to fathom the survival of legal practitioners, considering that the code of conduct for the profession restricts mixing the practice of law with any other practice or business. 

The nation’s Attorney General an iced a few day’s back that plans are in place to get the courtrooms up and running again, with the aid of technology to help with the reopening of the courtrooms. It is difficult imagining how swift the plan is going to be carried out, considering that very little technological innovations have been previously put in place in making the Judiciary more effective and efficient in carrying out its functions. 

While we wait and the Hallowed Chambers are being sought out, the hope of the common man is still hanging... on a very delicate balance

ANNAKAR Hallelujah Tor, ACArb. is an aspiring lawyer and an associate arbitrator with the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators. He is passionate about human rights and ADR. He can be contacted via LinkedIn http://linkedin.com/in/hallelujah-annakar-acarb-45a796b3 or his email weskingannakar@gmail.com