In order to make e-filing of court processes easier for lawyers in Lagos State, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba, has set September 1, 2022 as the start date for the new e-filing system, which will eliminate the need for physical presence at the court registry.
Justice Alogba made the revelation on July 28 during a meeting at his office with lawyers from the state’s various branches of the Nigerian Bar Association to discuss issues concerning the administration of justice in the state.
Despite the introduction of an electronic filing system in Lagos courts, the filing of cases in Nigeria remains cumbersome and slow. Some lawyers have complained that, rather than speeding up the processes, the e-filing procedure has caused delays in filing cases and getting them assigned to courts.
On September 24, 2013, Lagos’ former Chief Judge, Justice Ayotunde Phillips, first introduced the e-filing system, known as the Judicial Information System. JIS was hailed as the first of its kind in the country by lawyers and other stakeholders.
It pioneered innovations such as easy case management for counsel, who could file cases from the comfort of their law chambers, online payment of necessary fees via a secure web portal, and online case tracking.
The project was supported by Justice Philips’ successors, Justices Olufunmilayo Atilade, Opeyemi Oke, and the incumbent, Alogba. However, nearly nine years later, lawyers and litigants are still grumbling about the time-consuming and slow pace of filing cases.
Some have identified insufficient computers and poor and inefficient internet network services as factors that not only delay filing but also frustrate lawyers’ efforts to meet their set targets. Electronic methods rely on a good internet network to function properly, and service providers cannot guarantee the reliability of the network.
There is also the threat of viruses and hackers infiltrating the court’s online sites with the intent of destroying vital information stored on the site.
Furthermore, relevant laws and court rules in Nigeria are not designed to accommodate electronic systems. These rules would need to be changed to allow for virtual operations. Inadequate or insufficient funding for the judiciary also contributes to the setback. It is expected that judicial fiscal autonomy will provide sufficient funding to begin automation.
Lawyers and litigants have recently protested the slow and frustrating process of filing papers in the court registry as a result of the JIS’s ineffectiveness.