A Delta State High Court I sitting in Effurun, Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State has ordered that originating summons by Mr Richard Ogheneyerovbo Ogedegbe be served via WhatsApp on five defendants, Mr Baker Agbarho Ogedegbe, Stella Ogedegbe, Henry Ogedegbe, Henry Onajite Ogedegbe and Mcleord Ogedegbe.
The Court presided over by Hon. Justice G.B. Obriki Okolosi handed down the order while the Claimant/Applicant was absent in Suit No: EHC/191/2020 on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
The Court having heard the Counsel to the Claimant/Applicant, Prof. Teddy Idiabeta Esq ordered as follows; “I have discussed relief 3 with Counsel and considering that it is preemptive, it is hereby refused and struck out.
“I grant the prayers sought as reliefs 1 and 2 on the face of the motion paper. However, service of the processes in this Suit as hereinbefore directed shall be by the bailiff of this Honourable Court alone who shall provide proof of service if same. Thus order when carried out shall be deemed proper service.”
The Claimant/Applicant had through his Counsel, Prof. Teddy Idiabeta Esq, a practitioner research professor and virtual law practice consultant, approached the Court with an Ex-parte Motion on 19/10/2020.
In the Ex-parte Motion, the Tech-savvy lawyer prayed for a, “Leave of this Honourable Court to enable the Claimant/Applicant to serve his originating processes and the accompanying documents in respect of the above suit on the 1s,2nd,3rd,4th and 5th Defendants/respondents through the WhatsApp contact numbers/ID’s of the 2nd and 4th Defendants/Respondents.
“An order of this Honourable Court to enable the Claimant/Applicant to serve subsequent Court processes in respect of the above suit on the 1st, 2nd,3rd,4th and 5th Defendants through the WhatsApp contact numbers /ID’s of the 2nd and 4th defendants through if the 1st,2nd,3rd,4th and 5th defendants/respondents are not represented by a legal practitioner or legal practitioners.
“Leave of this Honourable Court to enable the Claimant/Applicant serve the present processes in respect of the above Suit on the 1st,2nd,3rd,4th and 5th Defendants/Respondents through the physical office contact address of Austin O. Ikolo Esq&Co. The Solicitor of the 1st,2nd,3rd,4th and 5th Defendants. Austin O. Ikolo Esq email: firstname.lastname@example.org and or his WhatsApp contact numbers 08033195853 and 07089724917 and whose office address is at Suite 33, 2nd floor, Ubiame shopping complex, Effurun/Sapele road or Refinery junction, Effurun, Delta State, Delta State, Nigeria “.
Our Correspondent reports that with the order, Nigerian judiciary seems to be taking the lead in virtual law practice in Africa as the Covid-19 challenges facing Africa and the other parts of the world is fast becoming a blessing in disguise for the judiciary in a unique way.
Parties in a suit can now be served their originating processes via their WhatsApp contact numbers.
By this ruling, originating processes can now be served on the WhatsApp contact numbers of the Defendants if they are not represented by a lawyer or lawyers as the case may be.
When the lawyer who filed the application contacted to give clarification on what this innovation in law practice presents for the Nigerian judiciary, he said: “This appears to be novel as it happens to be the first originating processes that will served vide the WhatsApp contact numbers of parties in a suit in Delta State by the estimation of some senior lawyers who had been in practice for a long time.
“But I don’t know if it is the first in Nigeria or Africa. One thing that is certain in all that I know is that from the questions I have been asked so far about this means of service with callers from within and outside the country who called to have an idea about the ruling, I am persuaded to believe that it may be the first not just in Nigeria and Africa but also in some other parts of the world, even in the developed climes.
“Interestingly, I just got a call from Canada to comment on the ruling and how I could provide some information to some lawyers about how to go about such application taking into consideration the problems of electricity supply and data issues which may hinder virtual law practice in Nigeria. And I have given my words about them.
“It is even possible this new way of service of court processes may be used in the speaking engagement the caller from Canada who is a prominent Nigerian-Canadian lawyer has in Canada.
“And the innovation may even be used in that speaking engagement for the purpose of giving real-life examples, not textbook-based to the lawyers in Canada and some other parts of the world that will be in attendance in the programme.
“I am sure it will also be used to show that if it is possible in Nigeria given the peculiar challenges in Nigeria, it will be 100% possible in Canada and America which are the hubs of virtual law practice in the world.”
A Nigerian-Canadian lawyer, Mr Kingsley Jesuorobo has praised the dogged effort of the tech-savvy lawyer who filed the application as he found the ruling very fascinating.
Prof. Idiabeta Esq said the Nigerian judiciary was really poised to expanding the frontiers of law practice with the Covid-19 challenges which have become a great opportunity for them to welcome innovation that will make the practice of law easy with a view to promoting access to justice for all in Nigeria.
He said, “The court truly had a progressive mindset towards promoting virtual law practice, especially in this Covid-19 era. He congratulated Nigerian legal profession and the court for opening themselves up to embrace virtual law practice.”