The Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Justice Ishaq Bello, has directed the courts under the FCT judiciary to reopen for regular sittings on Monday.
Justice Bello, who issued this directive in a Practice Direction on May 8, however, directed judges and magistrates in the FCT judiciary to enforce social distancing measures.
He stated, “The honourable judges and learned magistrates should organise their cause lists to ensure that no more than five cases are fixed per day.
“In keeping with demands of social distancing, the court shall indicate in advance the sequence and specific time for hearing cases on the cause list in order to avoid the convergence of counsel and parties in the courtroom from the beginning of the day’s proceedings.
“The court shall allot time for each party to present his/her case, taking into consideration the peculiarities of each case in all cases (whether criminal or civil), only the parties and their counsel shall be allowed into the courtroom, subject to a maximum number of 10 persons (excluding court officials) at any given time.”
The chief judge added, “Hearing in criminal matters requiring the production of defendants in custody is hereby suspended until further notice”, saying it was “to avoid a situation where traffic in and out of correctional centres (prisons)” which might “catalyse the spread of COVID-19 to inmates”.
He said the new practice direction was issued in the exercise of his powers under Section 259 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) Section 109 of the High Court Act Cap. 510 Laws of Nigeria, 2004, Order 1 Rule 3 of the High Court of the FCT (Civil Procedure Rules, 2018; Section 490 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.