The former Chief Judge of Edo State Hon. Justice Frances Esohe Ikpomwen, the judiciary is suffering from starvation and cannot bear the burden of cost of Open Justice. She made this known during her keynote address at a workshop with the theme Open Justice organized by FOI Counsel and NBA to mark the open data day.
She said that open justice applies the principle of transparency, civic participation and public accountability. She noted that to facilitate Open justice, court must employ open data. She cited the report of Federal Ministry of Justice on National Policy on Justice 2017 which states “…. There is dearth of routine data and statistics to enable proper assessment of the performance of justice sector institutions. There is a resistance to ICT innovation by officials of the sector which may be deliberately aimed at concealing wrong doing and inefficiencies”.
According to Justice EF Ikpomwen (Rtd), the justice sector currently lacks the infrastructure to support digital or automated collection and management of information to protect its integrity and facilitate its timely retrieval. But the judiciary cannot foot the bill of full-fledged Open Justice because of executive and legislative dependence. She reiterated that there is access to court and its records as a basic open justice doctrine characteristics across courts in the country. She recalled a case where a chief magistrate was disciplined for unduly withholding a judgment.
For Joseph Otteh of Access to Justice, the National Judicial Policy 2016 insists that judicial appointment process must be transparent, merit and skill based. He added that where judiciary fails to recruit the most qualified candidates to judicial office, the quality of administration of justice would be unsatisfactory to court users in that jurisdiction. The Benin branch Chairman of NBA, Mr. Pius Oiwo commended the state of openness in the judiciary and argues that access to court and its records are still veritable to rule of law and that the FOIA 2011 need no domestication for the implementation of the law and that any court that says otherwise is not leaving to its oath of office.
She added that an automated justice administration will require capacity strengthening and installation of infrastructure and as long as the judiciary depends on the executive for funds it cannot foot the wage for openness in all ramification as to ensure the digitization of al processes used in courts there has to be a huge budgetary provision which is subject to the determination and consideration of the executive.
The Director of FOI Counsel, President Aigbokhan, Esq call on the court to develop Access to Information Policy (A2IP) as this is a requirement of Freedom of Information Act 2011 which mandate all MDAs and arms of government to embrace proactive disclosure. The information to be proactively disclosed include but not limited to duties of departments, officers, decision making procedure, manuals governing the departments, budget and subsidiary programmes.
Those present in the workshop which was hybrid (online and physical meeting) include the former chief of staff to Edo State Government, Dr. Isaiah Osifo, Mr. Abbas Inuwa of TranspancIT, Com. Austin Osakue of Foundation for Good Governance and Social Change (FGGSC), Mr John Osawe (member of Edo State Economic Team), Bulus Atsen the chairman of NBa, Abuja Branch and many others.