Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Olukayode Ariwoola has pronounced the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) a worthy telecom regulator for its dedicated efforts in promoting awareness and knowledge of Information Communications Technologies (ICT), among the judiciary in particular, and the Nigerian public.
Justice Ariwoola, who is the chairman of Board of Governors of the NJI, spoke in an opening remark at the 2023 edition of the NCC-hosted annual workshop for judges on telecommunications issues, which began in Kano on Monday.
The CJN said that information technology and telecommunication services have surpassed the conventional method of court service delivery, as the use of the Internet is becoming a prominent feature of this era with innovative and interactive influences on the public, hence the crucial nature of the workshop.
Addressing the theme of the workshop, “The Adjudication Path in a Digital Era,” the CJN said it strikes a chord with the current realities that judicial officers face technologies that has fundamentally transformed how they communicate, access information and conduct legal proceedings.
“We are obliged to embrace this transformation while ensuring that doing justice remains at the forefront of our efforts,” he said.
Ariwoola and other Justices of the Supreme Court, Appeal Court, Federal High and States High Courts, and the NJI, were welcomed to the workshop by the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC Prof. Umar Danbatta who greeted them with the news that the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, is currently undergoing a fundamental review to update its provisions.
The nation’s number one judiciary officer explained that the workshop presents a platform where the challenges facing the judiciary by the digital revolution would be effectively discussed and that it is also an opportunity to equip the judiciary with the necessary information to deal with the digital era.
“It is also crucial to prioritize the examination of the convergence of data privacy and information security law. The enormous amount of data generated and collated in the digital realm raises critical questions regarding privacy, security, and the protection of individual rights.
“As Judicial Officers, you are responsible for carefully assessing the legal implications of data collation, storage, and utilization and by striking a harmonious balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding privacy, your Lordships would cultivate trust in the digital ecosystem while upholding individual rights,” Ariwoola said.
Prof Danbatta, in his welcome address, expressed gratitude to the CJN and the top echelon of the judiciary for finding time to attend the workshop and promised the Commission’s resolve to deepen knowledge of the digital future on the judiciary as a very critical and indispensable arm of government.
Danbatta said the Commission is responsive to the rapid changes in the telecommunications and technology space and that NCC has taken steps to start the review of its enabling legislation, the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA, 2003) while assuring that stakeholders will get the opportunity to make input to the amendment.
Speaking on the importance of the workshop, Danbatta noted that the telecommunications sector has evolved since the NCA 2003 came into existence hence the need to be responsive in readiness to keep pace with the dynamics of technologies that will come.
The EVC noted that the workshop afforded the Commission ample opportunity to engage the Judiciary on how to adopt digital technologies in advancing the course of justice.
He said, “The communications sector, through infrastructure deployment, has continually ensured that the digital economy agenda of the Federal Government is established on a solid foundation. It has also proven to be the catalyst for entrenching the activities of both the public and private sectors in the digital space, seamlessly.
“However, we recognise that in any digital economy, the development of a complex web of commercial transactions and social interactions is inevitable. Thus, to instill societal confidence in the digital economy, at least, two things are required: a safe and effective backbone infrastructure, as well as an efficient adjudicatory mechanism, which is easily accessible in the digital space,” he stated.
The EVC said this reality informs the NCC’s steadfast partnership with the NJI to develop capacity for judges in this area, saying this would ensure that the Court, being the last hope of the common man, is firmly woven into the fabric of the digital economy.
In an interview on the sidelines of the workshop, Danbatta further stated, “We have the Nigerian Communications Act, which established the NCC in 2003, more than 20 years ago. At one time, the Chief Justice of the Federation said this Act is anachronistic, which means it is old and therefore, has to be reviewed and I assured members of the judiciary that this review is going on as we speak.
“At the appropriate time, members of the media will be invited to witness the public presentation of the reviewed NCC Act to an engagement forum with critical members of the industry as well as Nigerians, who subscribe to telecommunications services. They will have a say during the presentation of the reviewed Act to the Public.”
The NCC hosted the 2023 National Workshop for Justices and Judges on Legal Issues in Telecommunication Matters in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute (NJI).