Tanko Muhammad, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), on Monday, ordered all heads of courts to shut down courts.
He told them to hear only essential and time-bound matters.
A circular dated May 4, with Ref. No. NJC/CIR/HOC/II/658, said the directive followed the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for the phased easing of the lockdown.
It said only staff on the Grade Level 14 and above should resume duty.
“Having regard to the fact that the National Judicial Council, as Your Lordships are aware, had constituted a Committee to, inter-alia, come up with urgent practical strategic measures to be instituted in order to ensure that Courts continue to function despite the lockdown and the COVID-19 Challenges.
“These measures are expected to include recommendations on how the Courts could leverage on Technology to hold virtual sittings or remote hearings. In addition, the National Centre for Disease Control had made an announcement to the effect that we are now at the community transmission phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Furthermore, it is a fact that many of our Judges and Justices are in the high-risk category in terms of age bracket, resulting in many having underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virulent manifestation of the disease once infected.
“Hence, we cannot afford to put them and their families at risk by allowing a haphazard resumption of Court without clear Guidelines and Protocols that will safeguard the health and wellbeing of the Judges, Lawyers, Court Staff as well as Members of the Public.”
The CJN told all Heads of Courts and Judicial Bodies to put in place technology on virtual or remote hearings issued by the NJC.
He said strategic measures and guidance must be provided for Courts where physical hearings must be held and they must do so sparingly and in line with appropriate regulations and guidelines issued by the NJC, and the health protocols approved by the NCDC.
The circular ordered the implementation of access control, infrared temperature detector/thermometer, space requirement per person, physical distancing within the Court premises, protective gears, sanitation and periodic decontamination of the Courtrooms.
Court/Judicial Body Administrator were required to provide adequate safety equipment like face masks and sanitary stations with hand washing facilities to the Judges, Justices, Staff and general Court users.
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