AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH, writes that the infatructural development in the nation’s apex court is helping to further make the edifice worthy of its status
BY AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH
The current Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Barr Ahmed Gambo Saleh who has been appointed Executive Secretary 0f the National Judicial Council (NJC) will resume at the council on July 1st, 2017, just as the Executive Secretary, Mr Danladi Haliru will proceed on retirement having attained civil servant’s mandatory retirement age of 60 year
Consequently, Mrs. Hadizatu Uwani Mustapha whose appointment as the new Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court was approved by the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (GCON) on 31st May, 21017 will be taking over from Barr Saleh same day.
Before the exchange of batons, let us take a cursory glance at the current external and internal structure of the apex court complex and a mental reflections way back November 24th, 2014 when Barr Saleh took over the administration of the apex court from Mr. Sunday Olorundahunsi who was appointed by the NJC as a Judge of the Ondo State High Court.
By virtue of Section 6 (2) of the Supreme Court Act Chapter 424 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 the Chief Registrar ‘’shall exercise such powers and perform such duties as may be conferred or imposed upon them (him) by any Act or rules of court, and subject thereto, by any directions of the Chief Justice of Nigeria’
Also, Rule 23 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Nigeria echoed the position of the Act when it states that ‘’Except as may be otherwise provided in the Constitution or in any other enactment, the Chief Registrar shall have such powers and duties as are given him by these Rules or such further powers and duties as the Chief Justice may direct’’. In other words, the Chief Registrar exercises his powers and .carries out his functions according to the dictates of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria as the head of the Judiciary, the Third Arm of the Government usually leaves the administration or day to day running of the Supreme Court in the hands of the Chief Registrar. Though the CJNs take over all responsibility or otherwise of the happenings at the apex court complex, but nevertheless, the Chief Registrars are directly held accountable for good or bad at all material times by the judiciary stakeholders and the general public.
Infrastructural Upgrading Of The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court which is the highest court in Nigeria is located in the Central District, Abuja, in what is known as the Three Arms Zone, so called due to the proximity of the offices of the Presidential Complex, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court.
It is unarguably one of the national monument and like its counterpart in other climes, a treasure and symbol of national authority to behold. The apex court complex in Abuja was built over 20 years ago by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s military government.
Like many monuments in Nigeria suffering from lack of repairs, it was facing serious infrastructural decay, wearing and tearing until the immediate past CJN, Hon Justice Mahmud Mohammed (GCON) and the out-going Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Barr Saleh assumed leadership of the nation’s Judiciary and administration of the Supreme Court respectively.
As stated earlier, a short trot down the memory lane to November 24th, 2014 will confirm the following infrastructural upgrading:
The visible features of the surrounding of the complex have been re-designed with more paved walkways, gardening with lawns perpetually kept tidy. Several watering pipes and sprinkling taps were installed to keep the lawns, shrubs and trees ever green even during dry seasons. Flowers and flower pots are lined up inside the premise.
The Chief Registrar has with the support of the CJN embarked on infrastructural upgrading of the facilities and face-lifting of the complex to enhance performance efficiency and provide conducive working environment for both the Justices and the supporting staff of the apex court.
For instance, the roofing sheets of the entire complex were replaced. This is a major work on its own. The vast external white tiled walls were craftily cleaned up with chemical and machines, while the internal walls have been re-painted.
So many offices within the complex have either been rehabilitated or reconstructed; with state of art fittings, furniture, gadgets, computers, windows and bullet proof doors, just to mention a few have been installed. These offices so upgraded include Internal Audit, Account, IT offices, and Litigation department/rooms. This is just as the main entrance to the complex has been re-tooled with sensory doors. The CJN chamber was re-touched with betting fittings and carpeting. The foyer or ceremonial hall where major events are conducted in the complex was also touched. The e-library has been installed..
Two fully furnished state of the art canteens have been constructed with air-conditioners and modern day eatery facilities in the complex and they are being run by professionals to provide conducive and attractive eatery for the management and junior staffers respectively.
Justices Retiring Room And Libraries
A marble-tiled Justices ‘retiring room containing dining, rest rooms and relaxing furnishings have been constructed adjacent to a court room in the complex to provide comfort for the Justices, especially after court sessions. The retiring room is also necessary during a stand down of an appeal for the Justices in the panel hearing the appeal to consult with one another before taking decision. Attached to this retiring room is a library for easy research/reference by the Justices in case lawyers appearing before the panels make ambiguous and frivolous submissions.
Besides, there is a normal library (physical or analog) and a virtual library for ease of researches by the Justices that were also created recently, all in addition to the old Justices’ library.
The Supreme Court Registry has streamlined and improved the archival and retrieval process of case files. This is to curtail the loss and/or misplacement of case files and its incendiary effects as witnessed sometimes in the past.
There has been an upgrade of the security architecture of the court in line with the security realities of our country and the scanners are working perfectly as one could observed on the way into the Court.
The interviews of candidates for the conferment of the rank of SAN are now streamed live on the website of the Supreme Court .This was for all members of the public to view and assess the suitability or otherwise of the interviewees in order to forestall allegations of preferential treatment, bias and nepotism in the appointment process.
The New Legal Year Ceremony is also being streamed live on the apex court website, another first in the history of the Supreme Court and the Nigerian Judiciary, all in the bid to imbibe more openness and access to these proceedings.
The New Digital Courtroom
The internal structure and fittings of the courtroom known as the Supreme Court one were completely re-structured, re-constructed and re-fitted with ultra-modern digital and state of the art equipment and computer that can compete comparatively with courts anywhere in the advanced world. Some of the fitted features, computers and modern gadgets in the new digital or computerized courtroom are as follows:
Technology Enabled Judge’s Bench
Justices Bench are fitted with computer displays and Audio Visual Equipment that enables the Judge to view exhibits and documents, control court proceedings and make research on citations. These features are also available on the court Registrar’s and Attorneys desk for effective synchronization.
High Definition Audio/ Video Recording Equipment
The latest technologies enable the courtroom to be connected to a unified system that has a central repository for all audio/video recordings proceedings and associated linked notes. The court record includes the transcript, audio or audio and video recordings of any hearings, appearances and courtroom proceedings.
FTR Court Reporting Software
FTR Software a powerful solution for digital court reporting is also implemented in this project which allows real-time transcription and transmission of court proceedings. This software works by capturing, annotating, playing back and managing the record of court proceedings. Up to 4-channel audio can be recorded and managed. FTR Reporter also facilitates electronic court reporting through linked note-taking as well as review and playback of pre-recorded content.
High Technology Mobile Podium For Presentation
The focal point of the evidence presentation system is the podium. The podium is mounted on a swivel base to enable the presenter face the judges or the barristers as may be required. The podium contains a touch-screen monitor for viewing and make-up of evidence sources including the document camera and various other inputs. There are also USB and SD Card connections for displaying media from these external devices. There is a remote control that can be operated by the presenter. The podium also houses electronic components that gather and disseminate the media throughout the courtroom.
A document camera to display exhibits which can be viewed by Judges, Registrars and Lawyers .It instantaneously converts a paper document or physical exhibit to an electronic image, with ability to enlarge and reduce the image as needed. This new design has High Definition room camera unit strategically positioned in the courtroom as well as Fisheye camera to capture all aspects of the courtroom. This will enable full viewing and recording and courtroom session.
Enhanced Room Audio Speakers
To ensure good quality sound, the court has been fitted with 6 pairs of Extron Speed Mount 2-Way Surface Mount Speakers with 6.5’’ Woofer and 70/100 V Transformer suitably located around the room.
Viewing Screens In The Gallery
This enables court audience of having more view of the court proceedings have all been fitted in the Supreme Court rooms.