By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Abuja, July 7, 2020 Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says there is room for innovative technology that will be suitable for use in the courtrooms.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Friday in Abuja, said the vice president spoke at the virtual Townhall Meeting of the Law Students Association of Nigeria (LAWSAN).
The theme of the meeting is “How to build the right mindset for a better Nigeria, post COVID-19”.
The vice president said COVID-19 challenges could be a turning point for innovative thinking especially towards resolving the numerous challenges faced by humanity.
He said that of importance to lawyers or lawyers in the making were what the challenges meant for lawyers and where the opportunities lied.
“ And I think we have to think through this especially like yourselves who in the next couple of years will be out there in practice; a few examples will tell you that you are living in the most interesting period in the history of our profession.
“So, the Supreme Court has recently endorsed virtual court proceedings; this means that there will be plenty of opportunities for new technologies adapted to the dynamics of the courtroom.
“ You can share documents on Zoom but for courtrooms and for practice; you need more nimble technology to tender documents or cross-examine a witness from a remote location on a bundle of documents.
“ So, Zoom will not be the best technology for court proceedings although it is being used now but it is not the best technology because sometimes you have a bundle of documents to tender and that may be difficult.
“So, there is room there for innovative technology that will be suitable for use in the courtroom and I know that there are so many ideas that people are coming up with but there is plenty of room for thinking that through.’’
According to him, there is the need to think about what the new rules for protocols will be.
Osinbajo said that virtual court proceedings were not the same as in-person or live court proceedings.
“When you are sitting in your office, conducting a case, the record-keeping will be totally a different issue; what will the protocols be for cross-examination, for making submissions?
“How does the judge look at the question of demeanour? It is a bit more difficult to look at people’s demeanour when you are using virtual processes such as we are using today. So, we need to be able to define what the rules will be,’’ he said.
He said there was a two-fold global crisis– health crisis and economic crisis and the combined effects had resulted in possibly the greatest socio-economic crisis in recent history.
Osinbajo said that the Federal Government, faced with the prospect of unprecedented unemployment figures and business closures, had to get creative about solutions.
“To build resilience into our economic growth structure and to take bigger and bolder steps in our approach to creating wealth and opportunity.
“So, for about two months, at the direction of President Muhammadu Buhari, I led an inter-ministerial team mandated to look specifically at how to resolve some of the issues around the pandemic, its impact and draw up a response plan.
“That response plan is what we call the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) and we have a committee called the Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) which is to implement ESP and I also have the privilege of chairing this committee.
“ What we tried to do in the ESP was to design strategies that will save jobs and create new opportunities; and we looked at certain broad areas; we looked at mass housing and mass agriculture where we are focused on using local resources and innovation,’’ he said.
The vice president tasked Law students to prepare themselves for the new world, aside their regular Law curriculum.
He urged them to educate themselves in new ideas, read widely, and take up the enormous resources available online on practically any field of human endeavour.
Osinbajo said that they must be intentional about understanding technology, information systems and artificial intelligence.
“This sort of radical versatility is the new normal; you cannot be a lawyer such as we were.
“You are in a completely new world,’’ he said