The Oyo State Judiciary, in partnership with Citizens’ Gavel, a civic-tech human-rights focused organization, on Monday 17th January 2022 deployed the Nigeria Case Management System – a web platform that seeks to automate case flow management in the Courts to ensure a smooth, safe, and secure electronic exchange of documents between the different levels of courts.
In his address, the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Hon. Justice Munta Ladipo Abimbola affirmed that technology would help the Judiciary to achieve its mandate in various ways. “If you do something manually and you deploy technology to do same, the differences will be very clear; technology will therefore help Fastrack various things such as filing, hearing in court through the sound system as well as judgement delivery timeliness”.
He also appreciated the partnership of Citizens’ Gavel, a human-rights focused NGO, “First and foremost, let me appreciate Citizens’ Gavel, they have been partnering with us in order to assist us in justice delivery system, this time around as part of those in partnership with us, we have the National Judicial Council (NJC) and we are glad that Oyo State is one of the Pilot States where the deployment is being initiated”. As regards plans to deploy to other states, he affirmed that there are plans; however, more concerns are on the successful deployment of the platform in Oyo State.
As regards the sustainability of the platform Hon. Justice Munta Ladipo Abimbola noted that it is one aspect that is very important. “…That is why the judicial staff members are being trained, also enabling environment such as constant supply of power will ensure the sustainability of the web platform”.
Also speaking, the Chief Judge of Borno, Justice Kashim Zannah stated that the Nigeria Case Management System will lead the way for the country in the use of technology for the citizens, adding that the Oyo State judiciary got the benefit of a pilot state not because the Chief Judge is his friend but because he is a dogged, determined and persistent judge, adding that “I congratulate Oyo State Judiciary and commend the Chief Judge for being dogged in ensuring the benefit comes to the people of Oyo State.
“The system developed by the National Judicial Council is one of the best in the world. In fact, those who know it attest to the fact that it is the one that gives the most control to the judiciary. Already, seven countries that are not in Africa that were believed to have more advanced and functional systems have come to copy this because they realize that this one is more functional and effective.
According to the Oyo State Chief Registrar, Alhaja Safiya Oyediran, the platform will promote easy access to necessary files regardless of location. “The NCMS will go a long way to alleviate the problems faced in the Judiciary, It will eradicate issues like missing files/diary and will go a long way to curb commonly faced problems in the Judiciary”.
When asked about her take on the merging of the Nigeria justice system with technology, the Deputy Chief Registrar (Probate sector and community service), Olumide Ogunrin opined that:
“Technology has become the way of life, and it is necessary that if the Justice system achieves its purpose, then there will be a merging of technology and justice delivery system. She stated further that the NCMS is accessible to everybody. However, at the moment, it is mainly for judges, lawyers and court staff, eventually, as more people get trained, it will become accessible to all”.
As regards Gavel’s role in the deployment of the platform, she noted that “Citizens’ Gavel has been marvellous, pointing that she alongside Gavel were part of the non-custodial laws committee in Oyo State and the organization has been committed to the development of the law, technological advances to enhance justice delivery process in the country”.
Olumide Ogunrin concluded that the long-term vision of NCMS is that it becomes the norm where the system extends to various aspects of the law such as criminal cases, civil matters etc.
According to the Deputy Chief Registrar- (APPEAL) Yusuf Babasoro, Citizens’ Gavel played an important role in onboarding the Oyo State Judiciary on the NCMS.
“The supreme court of Nigeria, Borno and Oyo State and other Courts are on board to implement the NCMS and we have been able to note the challenges encountered by the Judicial staff – which is why we welcome Gavel’s partnership in onboarding Oyo State in the deployment of NCMS while hoping that Citizens’ Gavel will support other States that are willing to come on board”.
In his remarks, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) chairman, Olayinka Esan, noted that digitizing the Nigerian justice system is inevitable. “Everything is evolving, and the NCMS will help make a lot of things easier such as the E-filing feature which allows legal actors to file cases regardless of their location easily”. He concluded that the NCMS would eradicate the long process of justice delivery.
The Team Lead of Citizens’ Gavel, Nelson Olanipekun in his address pointed out one of the novel attributes of the platform which is the E-filing feature that allows legal actors to work from the comfort of their offices or even their homes – to file cases, follow up cases, know the proceedings from court without having to run around.
According to him, Citizens’ Gavel as an organization has made itself strategic as the go-to organization for legal-tech solutions in Nigeria.
“Gavel as an organization has maintained a strategic position in bringing all these together i.e., from facilitation of the NJC team from Abuja down to Oyo State, providing tech support including 20 desktops and Scanners, with inverter powered batteries to run digital operations in the judicial arm of the country, a lot of which was carried out with support from OSIWA (Open Society Initiative for West Africa).
He further stated: “Citizens’ Gavel has deployed several tech solutions and even reached the marginalized population. Hence, support from donors and strategic partnership will aid Gavel in advancing the good work it has begun in Nigeria”.
Nelson Olanipekun affirmed that there are plans to deploy the NCMS to other States of the federation as the organization is in conversation with other States in Nigeria – “These deployments are at no cost to the States, Gavel bears the funding, all that is needed is for the States to be willing to adopt and utilize the web platforms to enhance justice delivery”.
He concluded that the organization’s vision is “Faster Justice delivery process through tech” while the organization cooks up more tech innovations. According to Nelson Olanipekun, Citizens’ Gavel has done a lot in tech4justice where the organization has developed different tech platforms ranging from Podus, Justice Clock, to NCMS- Gavel is putting forth groundbreaking innovations in terms of Justice/tech in Nigeria.
Other participants present at the deployment of the Nigeria Case Management System were Mamud Adamu AD of the National Judicial Council, ICT department, Mr. Folorunso Agbeja CPA, Christian Henry, Assistant Chief System Analyst, The Tech team of Citizens’ Gavel – Ayankoya Damilare, Adeyemo Oluwasegun, Alabi Joshua, Gavel Head of Operations, Oluwafemi Ajibade, Gavel Programmes Lead, Ariyo Oluwatosin, Munasara Gwari, NA, Dahiru Abubakar, Christian and other members of the Oyo State Judiciary.
Taiwo Makanjuola, Communications Associate.