By Gobir Habeeb Bolaji
The recent outbreak of covid-19 is no longer a breaking news to the whole world. As a result of the lockdown and restrictions of movement imposed nationwide, activities around the globe have been greatly affected on a daily basis. Its damaging impact can be felt in all ramifications ranging from one sector to another with the judiciary inclusive. From the time Nigeria came in contact with this virus, the activities of the judiciary has been foreclosed with many cases unheard. This, invariably will cause a lot of havoc in the administration of justice Nigeria. Bearing in mind the numbers of cases that are still pending in Nigeria court, the need to find an alternative measure in dispensing justice during this lockdown is of great important.
Truth be told. If you are a habitual visitor of court room, you will agree with me that courts in Nigeria are congested already. Coupled with the outbreak of covid-19, It will be a pitiable situation for the judiciary in Nigeria if we all decides to fold our hands and shut our eyes on this issue. Justice delayed they say is justice denied. However, as a young advocate of justice, the writer in this work recommends the incorporation of Artificial intelligence in the administration of justice in Nigeria as a panacea to court congestion in Nigerian courts. However, before we dwell into that, we will examine in brief, factors that are responsible for court congestion
FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR COURT CONGESTION IN NIGERIA
There are, of course, some factors responsible for court congestion in Nigerian courts which are not limited to the following:
1. Holding of charges : This is a common system in Nigeria where inmates are remanded in prison without being arraigned before a competent court of jurisdiction. The numbers of inmates awaiting trials is on the increase, and It mostly happen in criminal cases leading to congestion of both the court and prison.
2. Delay in court proceedings: Delay in the dispensation of justice is another factor responsible for court congestion. Constant adjournment of cases is at the peak in Nigerian courts due to some reasons such as judges not forming quorum on a matter, absent of witnesses during trial, lack of funding to transport accused persons to court, disconnection of communication between the police, prosecutor and the courts, and thereabouts.
From the above, one will see that the main reason for courts congestion in Nigeria is from the system of justice we operate in Nigeria, and as a result, there is need for reform. Just like what is obtainable in other climes, there is need for us to venture into technology. It is a veritable tool that is needed in Nigeria. How this can operate successfully in Nigeria during and after the lockdown will be discussed below.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AS A PANACEA TO COURT CONGESTION DURING AND AFTER THE LOCKDOWN
As the world progress so is the need and desire of man to develop machines that can perform faster and more efficiently than human. Technically, artificial intelligence refers to the simulated intelligence in machines that enables them to replicate, mimics, and acts like human. In our world of today, artificial intelligence developers have been able to develop some machines that can outperform human intelligence.
As a result of their effectiveness and working speed, some of this machines have been incorporated almost in every endeavor of human lives with laudable achievements. At the judiciary level, there are some countries that have incorporated AI in their justice system, and same had gone a long way to grease the wheel of their justice system. Two out of these machines and countries that have incorporated them will be examined in brief
PUBLIC SAFETY ASSESSMENT ( PSA)
This machine was firstly used by U.S.A. Its main function is to identify potential offender. It is mostly used by the court in making decision as to whether an offender should be released on bail or remanded in prison pending the trial of the case. It bases its assessment on the age and criminal antecedent of the offender. It was developed by Laura and john Arnold foundation.
LEVEL OF SERVICE INVENTORY_REVISED (LSI_R)
This machine was developed by a Canadian company known as multi health system corporation. This machine is used to determine the possibility of the offender committing more offence after serving his/her term in prison. It predict whether an individual standing trial is a habitual criminal or not. It also guides the court in selecting the best sentencing option. Its assessment is based on the criminal record and the personality of the offender.
The above are some of the machines in existence in relation to administration of justice. However, bearing in mind the complexity of our laws and weak infrastructure in Nigeria, one maybe wondering if these machines can work in Nigeria. But believe me, it is possible if we are ready for it. How this machines can work in Nigeria will be discussed below.
HOW AI CAN WORK IN NIGERIA JUSTICE SYSTEM
In Nigeria, we need a machine that can predict the outcome of a case with ease. This may sound impossible to some of you, but at the end of this article, you may likely believe in the possibility of this kind of machine. For other countries to have developed those machines discuss above, i believe with the help of the goct the outcome of a case. Let us discuss how this system can work.
Under the Nigeria legal system, there are various laws that emanated from different source. We have statutes, case law, customary law, and other subsidiary legislation. Among these laws, there are some that are restricted in their application. For example, we have the penal code which is applicable in the northern part of the country, and the criminal code which is applicable in the southern part.
All we need to do is to program all these laws into the machines. Judicial precedent should be program as well. Unlike humans, machines have the ability to accommodate all these law by converting them into data, and same will be programme into the machine. This will enables the machine to be acquainted with all the laws existing in Nigeria. They will be made available in the office of judges of various courts in Nigeria, and same should be made available in law chambers as well.
So, whenever a client brings a matter to a lawyer, all the lawyer need to do is to collect the facts of the case and input everything into the machine. The machine will then assess the fact based on the laws that are programmed into it. After the assessment, the machine will then predict the outcome of the case and give recommendation as to whether the case should proceed to court or out of court settlement. This will be graded by percentage. If at the end of the assessment, the machine grades 70% for litigation and 30% for Alternative dispute resolution, then the case can proceed to court, and vice versa. By this, only cases with high percentage for litigation will only go to court. This clearly shows how artificial intelligence can serve as a panacea to court congestion, and will supplement ADR in reducing court congestion.
The procedure explained above may look impossible to some people. But it is possible for artificial intelligence to perform this task with the aid of what is known as Natural language processor. Artificial intelligence are developed together with a device known as natural language processor. This device gives machine the ability to interpret human language. It allows machine to interpret words not only when they are spoken, but when they are also in written form. It therefore follows that, once the fact of a case has been feed into the machine, it will process the fact and assess it with the applicable laws with the aid of natural language processor.
However, now that there is lockdown all around the states in Nigeria, taking cases to court will be impossible even if the machine recommend same. In a situation like this, the procedure to follow is simple. Since judges in various courts will be with this machine, counsel representing both sides will just forward their processes to the judge, and the judge can out of his own volition input these processes into the machine, and in return, the machine will apply the applicable laws and give recommendations as to the strength and weakness of the case at hand. This will assist the judge in reaching a quick decision on the matter. The judge can thereafter prepare his judgement on the case and forward same to the parties in dispute through their g-mail account or other electronic means of communication. By this, the court will be able to easily adjudicate on matters even with this lockdown.
In this modern era, the importance of artificial intelligence cannot be overemphasized. It’s relevance can be felt in every human endeavor with the inclusion of court proceedings. As it is, it appears to be a veritable tool that can be used to curb the menace of court congestion in Nigeria. It is high time for us to incorporate same in our justice system. Equally, with the closure of courts room due to the outbreak of covid-19, machines like this would help a lot in dispensing justice if same were made available. I hope at the end of this pandemic, our government will see and look into the importance of artificial intelligence, and incorporate same into our justice system against any future contingency. We have great talents in Nigeria that can develop machines that can predict the outcome of a case. If the government are ready to support this development, it can be a dream come through for Nigeria.
Gobir Habeeb Bolaji is a penultimate law student of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (Udus).
He can be reached via: 08108527278 and email@example.com