Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has charged the Nigerian judiciary officers to embrace technology and innovation for efficient justice delivery system in the country.
A statement signed by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, quoted the Vice President as giving the charge in a pre-recorded speech as guest speaker at the 2021 Annual Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch with the theme ‘Disruption, Innovation and The Bar’.
Describing technology as a critical tool for the evolution of the profession and national development, Osinbajo pointed out that technology and innovation would ensure that the country’s justice delivery mechanism was run on a system of enforceable, discernible laws and efficient institutions.
This is even as he maintained that the country’s justice delivery system could support critical investments in the current dynamic economy if driven on modern technology and IT solutions.
He expatiated: “Questions also need be asked about the readiness of our profession to engage in new markets as presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).
”Already Nigerian Banks and financial services are crossing borders in Africa, acquiring banks in several African countries. So, the AfCTA will open new trans-border commercial opportunities, and our profession should pay attention to the rules of engagement for legal services and how they may propel our business”, Osinbajo stressed.
According to him, innovation in Nigeria’s legal profession requires urgency to fit into the global system which thrives on knowledge economy and jobs are threatened by digitisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Justifying his stance, Osinbajo referred to how continuous improvement in the quality of Smartphone cameras disrupted global sales of digital camera.
Noting further that digitalisation has already disrupted other industries, and that it is most certain that it will sooner than later disrupt the business model of the legal industry, he called for continuous improvement in the institutional capacity of judges, court registries, court staff and court infrastructure in order to position the nation’s judiciary for emerging developments of the future.
The Vice President said: “For example, the AI legal service called ROSS is an AI system that can research and offer legal opinions about questions that may be posed by lawyers.
“And ROSS is then able to provide an answer; a properly considered legal opinion, taking into account the case laws and statutory authority in order to be able to come to that conclusion.
“So, providing predictive legal opinion is no longer the exclusive domain of lawyers, and as the years go by, it will become even more so. We are part of the global marketplace for investment and legal services.
“So, the extent to which we can attract business to our country depends in part upon investor perception of the quality of our justice delivery system; if we are seen as inefficient and ineffective, we would lose out to more efficient systems”, Osinbajo cautioned.
On the delay in the country’s justice delivery process, the Vice President said that the country’s judiciary ought to find ways to tackle jurisdictional challenges, particularly delays in court judgments, among others.
“I argued an appeal at the Court of Appeal in 2013, only to learn yesterday as I discussed with former colleagues in the law firm where I worked, that the appeal at the Supreme Court is not even listed to be heard in 2021.
“As someone said; our problem is not access to justice, it is exiting the justice system with some credible result. Should we not be evolving a cost award system that recognizes the court as a finite public resource, and as such delays and other dilatory tactics are visited with deterrent costs?”, he queried