The Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, has directed all courts in the FCT to resume regular proceedings from Monday, May 11.
The order was communicated in a practice direction published on the court’s official website titled “COVID-19 Practice Direction” and signed by the CJ on May 8.
Daily Trust reports that the FCT High Court on May 5 began virtual proceedings with three courts conducting proceedings via Zoom, a teleconference video application.
Before then, all courts in the country were ordered to suspend all sittings except in urgent matters in March by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
However, following the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) 10-member committee led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, to develop a practical strategy for how courts would continue to function during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJC last week released guidelines for court proceedings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Building on the directives of the NJC, Justice Bello directed all courts in the FCT to re-open but with strict adherence to safety measures.
Among the measures, the CJN directed that criminal matters that require the presence of defendants in the correctional custody would be suspended until further notice.
He also directed that there should only be a maximum of 10 persons in the court at any given time excluding the presiding judge and court officials.
“Every litigant or group of litigants suing or being sued together in a cause or matter shall be represented by not more than one counsel in the courtroom. Where the rules of the legal profession or other exigency make it imperative for counsel to appear with another counsel, then only one junior counsel shall be led in the cause or matter.
“The court shall alot time for each party to present his or her case, taking into consideration the peculiarities of each case,” he said.
The chief judge added that only parties to a case and their counsel shall be allowed into the courtroom.