Any virtual judgement passed at any court in Nigeria has become binding as the Federal High Court (FHC) of Nigeria Monday has authorised judges to adopt virtual proceedings for court cases in all its judicial divisions.
Chief Judge (CJ) Justice John Tsoho gave the direction in the new 2020 Practice Directions for the COVID-19 Period.
But proceedings can only be held virtually with the consent of the parties and their counsels.
Also, under the new rules, FHC judges cannot hear more than nine cases in a day.
There were 36 Divisions of the court as at last July with 82 judges to hear over 200,000 pending cases.
“Virtual proceeding is hereby adopted for adjudication in the Federal High Court.
“Virtual proceedings can be either by Zoom, Skype or any other audio-visual platform approved by the Court,” the CJ said.
Where parties and counsel agree to virtual proceedings in a case, he directed them to liaise with the court’s Registrar to schedule the hearings.
Cases for virtual proceedings shall then be stated on the Cause List, posted on the FHC website and communicated to counsel and parties, either by e-mail or any other electronic means.
The Judge and counsel in such proceedings must also be robed.
The notice also responded positively to growing calls for technology to be infused in court proceedings.
“Service of court processes may be affected by e-mails, WhatsApp or as may be directed by the Court, and shall be deemed as good service.
“Service of hearing notices may be effected by e-mail, WhatsApp, text messages or as may be directed by the Court
“The print out of same shall be sufficient proof of service,” it said.
In keeping with federal and states COVID-19 regulations, the Chief Judge also made the wearing of face masks and maintaining of social distancing mandatory.
“Face Masks must be properly worn by everyone within the court premises to cover their mouths and noses at all times.
“Every person within the premises of the court and inside the courtroom shall observe the requirement of social and physical distancing of not less than 2 meters (6 feet) apart from each other,
“At any given time, there shall not be a congregation of more than ten (10) within the Court premises, except for purposes of court sittings.
“There shall not be more than twenty (20) persons inside the courtroom including the court staff and counsel at court sittings.”
These Practice Directions came into effect on May 18, 2020.