There are concerns over delay of 155,757 court cases in the 2019/2020 legal year arising from the lockdown to contain the global COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
Also, continuation of cases of 51,983 awaiting trial inmates of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) has suffered setback, which would prolong their stay in detention.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on March 29 announced the restriction of movements in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states for an initial period of 14 days as moves to contain community transmission of the deadly virus.
He renewed the lockdown on April 13. The remaining 36 states of the federation have since announced some form of restriction of movements in a bid to flatten the curve of the coronavirus disease spread.
The courts, being one of the major public places with large gatherings, have also been affected by the government directive. The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, on March 23, directed the suspension of court sittings until further notice.
In a circular to all heads of courts nationwide, the CJN said the directive became necessary to protect judges and staff of courts.
“In view of the reality of the COVID-19 in the country and in order to take further preventive steps, all heads of courts are, from the 24th day of March 2020, directed to suspend court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound according to extant laws,” the circular read.
“Your lordships are hereby directed to bring the content of this circular to the notice of all stakeholders in justice administration, please,” it added.
As a follow-up, the Acting President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, in a statement directed the suspension of sittings in the court divisions in FCT, Lagos and Ogun except for urgent matters.
“The Bench and Bar are enjoined to strictly observe the guidelines on social distancing as directed by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Counsel and litigants present in court should be limited to 20 persons maximum at all times,” she said in the statement.
The Acting PCA said the appellate court will encourage use of its electronic platforms in filing and exchange of processes to minimise physical contacts among lawyers and litigants which could expose them to the COVID-19.
Source: News update