The Lagos State Government has filed a suit before the Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of the virtual court hearings system after its use in Lagos courts to fast-track administration of justice and curtail further spread of coronavirus in the country.
It added that there was a need for the apex court to determine whether the use of technology for a remote hearing of any kind, whether by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Skype or any other audiovisual or video-conference platform by the Lagos State High Court or any other courts in Nigeria in aid of hearing and determination of cases was constitutional.
The State Government move was said to be in reaction to National Assembly moves to amend sections of the country’s constitution that allow the judiciary to perform virtual court proceedings.
In the suit filed on behalf of Lagos by its Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, hinted that there were plans by the National Assembly to amend the sections of the 1999 constitution and that such action would invalidate judgement already delivered in the state.
Although no date has been set aside for the hearing, the Plaintiff further wants the apex court to determine whether the National Assembly, can usurp the powers of the Chief Judge of Lagos State under Section 274 of the Constitution by commencing the process for the amendment of Section 36(3) and (4) of the Constitution to include a virtual or remote hearing.
According to the state, the extant provisions in the Constitution, especially Sections 36 (3) and (4) are adequate to accommodate virtual or remote hearings of any kind, as provided for in the Practice Directions issued by the Chief Judge of Lagos State dated 4th and 15th May 2020.
Lagos State added: “the amendment process at the national assembly is threatening to disrupt the smooth running of the judiciary in Lagos and the administration of justice on account of the uncertainty being created because this would mean that every virtual hearing conducted prior to the amendment was unconstitutional”.