By John Okeke
President of the Community Court of Justice, Justice Edward Amoako Asante has revealed the institution expended significant portion of its resources in virtual technology with the first virtual session of the court held yesterday due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Asante who spoke in his goodwill message to the Second Extra Ordinary Session of the Community said the initial disruption on the conduct of the court session affected sixty cases which had been scheduled for both hearing and judgment.
” It was important to migrate to virtual technology infrastructure in other to continue discharging their roles, he said.
According to him, as part of the process for deploying the virtual technology, the Court had to align its Practice Direction with the new reality with the concomitant benefits of ensuring the safety of judges and staff.
He noted that although fallout of a pandemic, the deployment of the technology and the new practice direction had other benefits.
He said they had uninterrupted Court sessions and Court related operations despite the outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic; improvement in turnaround time for Court hearings; general improvement in the management of case files; recording of sittings and the speedy delivery of judgments.
” This project enabled the Court to fully function in 2020 despite the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It helped saved legal costs consisting of travel air tickets of litigants, agents, lawyers and witnesses as well as logistics and hotel costs. Benefits of no personal contacts between the bench and the lawyers, agent’s litigants and witnesses with the attendant infectious risks.
President of the Community court further added that, the court undertook training of judges and key staff members, and invested three hundred and forty-five thousand one hundred and twenty-six dollars in the purchase and installation of video conference equipment, fourteen laptops and accessories including servers, routers, switches, backup solutions, wireless access point, installation of SOPHO S Firewall and anti-virus solutions, Microsoft 365 used by all ECOWAS intuitions and increased internet bandwidth.
One of the implications of the deployment of this technology was that the effective functioning of the Court was dependent of the quantum and quality of the IT support staff. Until recently, the Court had to rely on contract staff to provide the IT support for its activities whose appointments have thankfully been regularized,” he stated.
He said however, leveraging the full potentials of the technology for the benefit of the Court, Member States and Community citizens will require reinforcing the inadequate IT capacity of the Court for the effective management of the substantial Community investment in the virtual technology infrastructure.
“Since this session of Parliament is dedicated to among other things, the consideration of the budget of the Community as approved by the last Administration and Finance Commission meeting, “I am constrained to seek the understanding and support of our valued parliamentarians to the proposal by the Court to address this deficiency”, he
Also, declaring the Second Extra Ordinary Session of the community open,ECOWAS Parliament Speaker , Mohamed Tunis said ,,” It is our shared desire to hold our plenary sessions again as provided for by the Supplementary Act. Much as we had hoped to meet in person, our singular most important and powerful enemy, COVID-19, has again denied us the pleasantries that goes meeting together. The Pandemic still lingers and is having devastating social and economic consequences on our citizens. States across our region and the world are recording more cases and unfortunately, new strains of the virus are being discovered, making it difficult to bring the pandemic under control. Regulations and restrictions previously imposed and relaxed are being reinforced. If the current trend continues, we are likely to see the imposition of more stringent measures aimed at curtailing the spread of the virus.”
According to the Speaker , while we celebrate the development of vaccines, I still wish to call on our citizens to avoid complacency and continue to observe all the existing health protocols , adding ” these protocols, which include the constant washing of hands under running water, wearing of face mask, maintaining social distance and respiratory hygiene, have proven very effective in curbing the spread of the disease and we must continue to practice them at all times.”
“Nevertheless the crisis, I am convinced, we will emerge stronger and more united. The challenges brought upon us by COVID- 19 must become an opportunity for change: a change that leaves no one behind; a change that makes our region a model of solidarity and sustainability,” he said.