The internet of legal things (IoLT) refers to the use of internet facilities in making for a faster administration of the judiciary and related legal businesses. By applying the internet, documents are moved around faster, services are more efficient and better documented as it goes around offices and departments.
In Nigeria, some of our courts have adopted IoLT in filing processes and this is a laudable move. Though not so perfect as many legal practitioners still complain of the slow nature of the system, it doesn’t deter the fact that something has been done and will continue to be improved upon.
The first state to adopt a part of IoLT in Nigeria is the High Court of Lagos State under the leadership of the then Chief Judge, Justice Ayotunde Philips. On September 24th 2013, the Lagos State Judiciary launched the Judicial Information System (JIS) which enabled legal practitioners to file their court processes online. However, this beautiful innovation has had several lags in terms of being used effectively. Process filing still has to go through many manual checks and submissions begging the question, what’s the need for the online system?
As a quick answer to the dilemma facing the JIS in Lagos State, the application of IoLT is twofold. On the part of the management, people who are skilled in IT with a good understanding of the legal system should be employed to handle the system. On the part of the legal practitioners, more awareness should be created about the efficiency and ease that comes with filing online. When there’s a total shift from all forms of manual filing to 100% e-filing, it will boast practice and service delivery.
In 2016, as a follow up to what was done in Lagos State, the Federal High Court under the leadership of the then Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta launched an e-filing system for the court. The Supreme Court of Nigeria in July 2018 phased out manual filing with the introduction of the legal e-mail.
All these steps being taken by different courts in the federation is in line with global best practices in the application of IoLT and administration of our courts.
To enhance service delivery, practitioners and stakeholders in the legal system of Nigeria must understand the need of joining the global trend in innovation and ICT. Indeed, where there’s full compliance with the IoLT in Nigeria, many legal practitioners will once again, discover their love for practice.
One of the major turn-offs for so many young lawyers who move into other life endeavours has been the stress associated with our legal process in Nigeria. Think about a situation where you will travel miles to a court and go to another different location to make payment. And then return to the court to get documents signed and stamped. Where’s there is compliance with the IoLT, a legal practitioner can stay in the comforts of his office, file his processes and make the necessary payments through any approved online payment portal.
While we are still developing ways to better understand how technology can work for our legal system, practitioners and stakeholders in the profession need to make systems already adopted to be transparent. The issue of online voting during NBA elections and the many outcries that follow after such exercise should be reduced to the barest minimum. Investments should be made into training legal practitioners and purchasing strong IT facilities to aid in the process.
Nigeria has over 100 million people who currently access the internet according to the NCC. This is a goldmine waiting to be tapped. With the right investments and application of IoLT, we will soon begin to get it right.
Martin Beck Nworah is an ICT Lawyer, social media influencer and content creator based in Lagos State, Nigeria.