The Need for the Incorporation of Digital Recordings in Court
The obvious question thus is, “Given the glaring benefits, is the Nigerian judicial system not desirous of incorporating the use of technological devices to take record of proceedings?” The answer is in the negative. No, they are desirous of using the technology. In fact, in Lagos and Abuja for instance, the judiciary have brought in the use of technology to aid in the recording of proceedings. In 2020, the FCT Abuja Courts launched a digital speech recording machine and video transcription system which will accurately record and convert speech made in the Courtroom to text as well as generate a text document. In Lagos, verbatim recorders/reporters are in place in some Court rooms who are supposed to accurately capture Court proceedings using a stenotype machine. However, there has not been great success with the usage of these alternative means of taking Court records.
In some Courtrooms in Lagos for instance, despite having a verbatim recorder present, judges still prefer to write in longhand. This is because the transcript the verbatim reporter produces has been shown to be unreliable. The judge then adopts his own writing rather than the recorder’s transcript because of the inaccuracies.
This, therefore, raises the question “is the technology not good enough for us?” Of course, the answer to this is also in the negative. If the technology itself was so porous, it would have been dispensed with in other jurisdictions worldwide. Why then are we unsuccessful in incorporating the use of technological devices? Clearly, the problem does not lie with the technology but with its usage.
In 2020, Barr. Emeka Albert, a consultant for United Nations (UN) Justice Sector Reform addressing the Supreme Court’s unsuccessful incorporation of verbatim recorders summed it up thus:
The Supreme Court launched its verbatim recording without studying the terrain… it takes two years to train a verbatim reporter to be equipped to sit in Court. If you fast-track the training, you can do it in one and a half years. All over the world, it is the same.
Ill-trained personnel are a major hindrance to a smooth transition from longhand writing to the use of alternative methods in our judicial system. The job of a verbatim reporter in a Courtroom requires high-level skill and efficiency and this can only be garnered through adequate training. If we must get it right, properly trained hands must be employed and appropriate tools provided to enable them do the job to perfection.