By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The ECOWAS Court of Justice has invested 345,126 U.S. dollars in digitization of its processes and the conduct of virtual court sessions, the President of the Court has said.
Justice Edward Amoako Asante made this known in a goodwill message at the opening of the 2020 virtual session of the ECOWAS Parliament on Wednesday.
He said that the deployment of the virtual technology has enabled the court to function optimally in safety in spite of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that the expenditure was committed for the procurement of video conference equipment and related materials after the initial disruptions to the Court’s judicial functions which affected 60 cases scheduled for both hearing and judgment during the first quarter of 2020.
“The Court realised that in a post COVID-19 world, it was imperative to migrate to the virtual technology infrastructure in order to continue to discharge its role,” the President told regional parliamentarians.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports the the 2020 Second Ordinary Session of Parliament was postponed to January 2021 due to COVID-19 disruptions, and it is being held via virtual conference.
The session is specifically dedicated to the consideration of the community budget for 2021 among other things.
Asante also said the Court had to align its practice direction to the reality of the virtual technology, which along with the deployment of the technology, resulted in the efficient and uninterrupted disposal of cases.
He said that it also resulted in improvement in turnaround time for Court hearings and a general improvement in the management of case files.
Its other benefits, he added, include savings on legal costs consisting of travel air tickets of Litigants, Agents, Lawyers and Witnesses as well as logistics and hotel costs.
He added that it also eliminated the personal contacts between the Bench and the Lawyers, Agents, Litigants and witnesses with the attendant risks of infection.
The President urged the Parliamentarians, who are considering the budget of the Community, to support the proposal by the Court to strengthen its Information Technology capacity.
“In doing so, they will be making an important contribution to the survival and functioning of the Court while protecting the huge community funds that have been invested in the virtual technological infrastructure that has become the livewire of its operations,” he said.