By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Supreme Court will today, 14th July, hears suits challenging the validity and constitutionality of the virtual court sittings procedure, filed by Ekiti and Lagos State governments respectively.
The suit marked SC/CV/260/2020, filed by the Attorney General of Lagos state mentioned the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation and the National Assembly as the 1st and 2nd defendants.
While the suit marked, ‘’SC/CV/261/2020’’ was also filed by the Attorney General of Ekiti state against the AGF added Attorneys General of Lagos and Ogun states as the 2nd and 3rd defendants, because, according to him, they have implemented virtual court proceedings
The Lagos state, however, asked the Apex Court to determine whether having regard to Section 36(1), (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) use of technology by remote hearings of any kind, whether by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Skype or any other audio visual or video-conference platform by the Lagos State High Court or any other Courts in Nigeria in aid of hearing and determination of cases are constitutional.
In the suit, Ekiti state it is challenging constitutionality of the directive of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the Head of Courts at federal and state levels to adopt Virtual Court Sittings in courts.
Ekiti state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Wale Fapohunda, Ekiti who filed the suit asked the apex court to issue an order to annul the directive for the adoption of the Virtual or Remote Court sittings.
However, Fapohunda wants the Apex Court to nullify the directive to the extent that same purports to be binding on state High Courts and other subordinate courts in Ekiti State for being inconsistent with Section 1(3), 4(6), 5(2), 6(2), 36(3) and (4), 272 and 274 of the 1999 Constitution.
They further wants the Supreme Court to determine whether the AGF’s guidelines are not a derogation from the legislative, executive and judicial law-making, law execution and adjudicatory rules making powers exclusively vested in states of the federation in respect of states courts, by virtue of Sections 1(3), 4(6), 5(2), 6(2), 272 and 272 and 274 of the Constitution.
The plaintiff is also asking the apex court to decide whether Lagos and Ogun state having adopted virtual court hearings pursuant to the lockdown, the three arms of Government in Ekiti State are bound to conduct their legislative, executive and judicial functions pertaining to adjudication in state courts in compliance with the directive upon which the National Judicial Council formulated the provisions of Articles E(1) to E(13) of its Guidelines (issued on May 7, 2020).