Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria

CBN Governor, other experts discuss financial services in ‘New Normal’ economy

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As a result of new-fangled technologies and innovations springing up with new entrants, activities and players in the country’s financial services industry, the sector continues to witness rapid revolution in the product and service delivery channels.

Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has stated that the disruptions resulting from the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic were felt both in the financial and the judicial systems.

Emefiele disclosed this Tuesday, November 10 at the 20th National Seminar on Banking and Allied Matters for Judges in Lagos.

The two-day seminar is titled, “The Judiciary and the Financial Services Industry in the New Normal: Challenges, Innovation and Regulations”.

The seminar was organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute, under the auspices of the Bankers Committee of CBN.

The CBN Governor, represented at the event by Aisha Ahmad, Deputy Governor of CBN, said that both systems, in their respective areas, had to take steps to meet up with the challenge.

Emefiele disclosed that he was aware that at the peak of the lockdown, court sittings were suspended across the country, except for the hearing of urgent, essential or time- bound cases in accordance with existing laws.

He said: “Of course, this situation would have resulted naturally in the buildup of backlog of cases in a judicial system that has already been challenged with high incidence of protracted trials.

“The closure of courts during the lockdown would likely also have impacted on the revenue generation as some fees, such as filing fee, etc., most likely would not have been earned.”

This was in addition to the health risk exposure to judicial workers, litigants, and the general public for the court that sat during that period.

According to him, “what we think the impact of this new normal could be on these two key sectors particularly, is for the judicial system to rise to the challenge posed by the ‘new normal’.

The CBN Chief further stressed that “as the financial services sector continues to witness rapid innovation in the product and service delivery channels, it is important to mention that this was happening prior to COVID-19 as we saw new technology, new innovations spring up, new entrants, new activities and new players in the system.

“But now with coronavirus even more prevalent, the CBN and other financial services have had to adjust the regulatory and supervisory framework in response to these changes.

“In this phase, the judicial system will also need to keep abreast of this transformation in order to be in full position to adjudicate cases presented by the sector.”

Moyosore Onigbanjo, Attorney-General of Lagos State, represented by his Senior Special Assistant (SSA), Mrs. Mujibat Oshodi, also said that the pandemic had impact on the sectors.

However, the Lagos State Attorney-General stated that the development yet brought some desired innovations that most forward thinking justices and practitioners had been clamouring for over time.

He said: “For instance, the courts are now settling cases and adopting cases management systems that progressive practitioners had been advocating over time now; virtual hearing happens to be the reality.

“The Supreme Court accepts the use of virtual hearing as constitutional judges in Nigeria and around the world have resorted to delivering judgment virtually through platforms like Skype, Zoom, etc.

Onigbanjo disclosed that “as far as Nigeria is concerned, such procedures seemed unlikely as of January 2020, however, recent judgments, rulings and proper court proceedings have held virtually in the past few weeks and the legal sector is better for it.

“These rapid developments are still in the crawling stages but it’s certainly refreshing to see that the judiciary and the legal practitioners are willing to embrace the new normal which has come to stay.”

He urged business institutions and the society at large to set work mechanism to fit the situation.

There is a need for the Judiciary to be further strengthened to improve the quick dispensation of justice in commercial or business transactions, stated Onigbanjo.

He added: “While the financial system plays a major role in the economic development of the country, the judiciary must be seen to protect the rights of parties and promote responsibilities in the financial industry in order to promote economic and business growth.”

Mr. Bayo Olugbemi, President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN) advised that innovation could not and should not be limited to leveraging technology in the judicial process alone.

Olugbemi said: “I know that when we speak of innovation in the context of the new normal, we refer usually to leveraging technology to improve the efficiency of the administration of justice process.

“Innovation is also required in the area of interpretation of statutes and resolution of disputes between parties in the time-honoured tradition established by distinguished jurists, such as Lord Denning, Honourable Justice Kayode Eso, JSC, Honourable Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC and Honourable Justice Mohammed Bello, CJN (all of blessed memories).

He stated that they all used judicial engineering to ensure that justice was done to parties before them by interpreting statutes and case law to cover novel situations previously not contemplated.

“The judiciary must continue in this innovative tradition in the resolution of commercial and other disputes brought before them and thereby contribute its quota to the development of the economy and other areas of national life.”

Justice I. Tanko Muhammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute; President, Nigeria Bar Association, Olumide Akpata; and Justice R.P.I Bozimo, Administrator, National Judicial institute, as well attended and spoke at the event.

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