3.1       Introduction
            In this discourse, attempt will be made to explore the meaning of legal practice. Similarly, we will look into the admissibility of computer records in Nigerian Courts, prior to the promulgation of the Nigerian Evidence Act, 2011.
            Interestingly however, this sub-head also aims at making it crystal clear that electronically generated documents are now admissible in Nigerian Courts following the emergency of the 2011 Nigerian Evidence Act.[1]

            The importance of ICT in Nigerian legal profession will be identified alongside challenges posited by the advent of ICT in Nigerian legal profession.
            Viable suggestions will be enumerated for a more effective ways of using ICT gadgets in Nigerian legal profession for effective legal service delivery.

Meaning of Legal Practice
            According  to Echono,[2]
 Legal practice is the application of the law and all its attendant dimensions and ramifications. In this context, the essence and relevance of studying law is to eventually practice it. It is also important to state here that legal practice should not be understood and explained from the very narrow prism of litigation alone, but we must view and explain legal practice as a multidimensional and sometimes multidisciplinary vocation that has the law as its hub.

            Legal practice is sometimes used to distinguish the body of judicial or administrative precedents, rules, polices, customs and doctrines from legislative enactments such as statutes and public, rather than only to a specific set of parties.[3] 
The Black’s Law Dictionary defines legal practice thus:
The professional work of a duly licensed lawyer, encompassing a broad range of service such as conducting cases in court, preparing papers necessary to bring about various transactions from conveying land to effecting corporate mergers, preparing legal opinions on various points of law, drafting wills and other estate-planning documents, and advising clients on legal questions. The term also includes activities that comparatively few lawyers engage in but that require legal expertise, such as drafting legislation and court rules.[4]

3.2       ICT and the Law of Evidence
            Indeed, there has been heated controversy over the admissibility of electronically generated documents in evidence prior to the promulgation of the new Evidence Act.[5] The issue centers principally on whether computer print outs are admissible in evidence and if they are, are they admissible as primary of secondary evidence?
Hence, this topic will identify the opinions of some legal scholars over the admissibility of computer print outs in evidence in Nigerian courts prior to the enactment of the new Evidence Act.
Scholars view on Computer Records Prior to the 2011 Evidence Act.
            Osibanjo,[6]  doubted whether electronically generated evidence will be admissible in the absence of an amendment to the old Evidence Act 2004.
            Akomolede,[7] simply notes that the emergence of e-commerce and its growing popularity have provoked fundamental evidential issues especially in relation to the proof of transactions conducted, through the internet. That the peculiarity of these issues and the confusion that has also greeted their interpretation by the courts have exposed the inability of the Nigeria law on Evidence to cope with the admissibility of the avalanche of electronically generated evidence that is the hallmark of electronic commercial transactions.  
            Valentine,[8]  thesis is that until such a time that the legislature can intervene by updating the Evidence Act, the courts must provide a congenial platform for the resolution of commercial disputes in the age of information technology.
            Sebastian, is however, of the firm belief that even prior to the enactment of the 2011 Evidence Act, electronically generated evidence is admissible under sections 5 (9) and sections 6-12 (these latter sections dealing with relevancy) of the Evidence Act 2004.[9]
            On his part, Chukwuemerie,[10]        has identified the critical problems with computer generated evidence. To him, the computer has brought with it new forms of record keeping in software (microfilms, microchips, diskettes, flash discs, etc.)  that are not by any means within the general understanding of the word ‘document’. The simplistic division of documents into originals and copies becomes unrealistic with respect to several materials used in information transmission and storage. For instance, when information recorded or stored in the memory of a computer is printed out on paper, it is not easy to say that the version in the memory is a document, nor is it easy to assert that the print out is an original or a copy. It is also not easy to classify an audio tape recording, a video tape recording, a text message on a GSM telephone, an electronic mail on a computer screen, information contained in CDs, VCDs or such other things, as originals or copies.[11]
            Chukwuemerie, does not believe that these challenges of electronically generated material affect their admissibility under the old Nigerian law of evidence. That they can only go to the weight attachable to these pieces of evidence after being admitted given that admissibility is purely a function of relevance[12] and a relevant piece of evidence will be admitted.
            Questions as to whether or not it is authentic, forged, tampered with or false in what it asserts only go to the weight the court may attach to it .[13]
            However, notwithstanding the view of legal scholars over the admissibility or inadmissibility of electronic document in evidence,  prior to the 2011 Evidence Act, it has been held by the Nigerian Supreme court in Anyaebosi vs R.T. Briscoe Nigeria Ltd,[14] on whether computer print outs should be admissible as primary or secondary evidence, that they are admissible under what is now section 97 of the Evidence Act 2011, as secondary evidence.
            Similarly, the Nigerian court of Appeal held in Nuba Commercial Farms Ltd vs NAL Merchant Bank ltd & anor,[15]  That the admission in evidence by the court of first instance of computer print outs as secondary evidence of entries in a banker’s book was wrong because, the relevant provisions of section 97 of the Evidence Act do not contemplate information stored ‘other than in a book.’
            Having seen the position of computer records with regards to rules of evidence prior to the 2011 Evidence Act, it would be apposite to see the current position following the emergence of the Evidence Act 2011. 
3.3       Admissibility of Electronically Generated Documents in Evidence
            Following the coming into force of the 2011 Nigerian Evidence Act, section 84 of the Act,[16] provides for the admissibility of documents produced by computers. Equally, it has become an obvious Nigerian rule of evidence that the contents of documents may be proved either by primary or secondary evidence.[17]
            In effect, section 86 of the Act,[18] provides for primary evidence. It provides thus:
(1)  Primary evidence means document itself produced for inspection of court.
(2)    Where a document has been executed is several parts, each part shall be primary evidence of the document.
(3)  Where a document has been executed in counterpart, each counterpart being executed by one or some of the parties only, each counterpart shall be primary evidence as against the parties executing it.  
(4)  Where a number of documents have all been made by one uniform process, as in the case of printing, lithography, photocopy, computer or other electronic or mechanical process, each shall be primary evidence of the contents of the rest; but where they are all copies of a common original, they shall not be primary evidence of the contents of the original.
Section 87 of the Act, provides for secondary evidence. Accordingly, secondary evidence includes;
(a)  Certified copies given under the provision here after contained in this Act.
(b)  Copies made from the original by mechanical or electronic processes which in themselves ensure the accuracy of the copy, and copies compared with such copies.
(c)  Copies made from or compared with the original,
(d)  Counterparts of documents as against the parties who did not execute them
(e)  Oral accounts of the contents of a document given by some person who has himself seen it.
            Accordingly, the combined effects of the above sections coupled with the provision of section 89 (h) which provides that secondary evidence may be given when the document is an entry in a banker’s book,  would show that computer print outs are admissible  as secondary evidence. Therefore, the Court of Appeal was grossly wrong by holding that the admission of computer print outs in evidence as secondary evidenced was wrong in Nuba Commercial Farms’ case supra.
            Conclusively, section 84, of the Evidence Act 2011, puts it beyond doubt that computer documents are admissible in evidence in Nigerian courts. This has long been acknowledged by the Supreme Court in Anyaebosi’s case supra. It is hoped that the Nigerian Superior Courts (the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court) will reconsider the decision in Nuba Commercial Farms’ case, at the earliest opportunity.

3.4       Importance of ICT in Nigerian Legal Profession  
            The use of better information and communication equipment is a must in legal profession. As we enter the age of the new electric lawyer, information technology is clearly shaping both legal practice and also legal profession.[19]
            Some of the advantages of introducing IT into our practice are:[20]
i.                    Production of error-free documents with the use of spell and grammar check facilities of the computer.
ii.                 Communication by e-mail
iii.               Research on the internet
iv.               Proper management of our finances using relevant software.
v.                  Production of legal documents using precedence stored on computer.
Other significance of ICT in legal profession are:[21]

1.      Court-room Technology
            Technologist have studied, formulated and recommended the introduction of audio and/or video recording devices into the court system. The Americans have been the forerunner of this. The courtroom 21 projects in the USA have seen the introduction of this equipment to record verbatim and transcribe all that takes place in the court.  The machine which may have up to four different tracks for recording, records everything and even separates the speeches of two people who have spoken at the same time in court. What is recorded can then be manually or automatically transcribed for paper viewing. The proceedings may also be recorded on compact discs (CD).
2.      Legal Software:
            The introduction and use of appropriate legal software can enhance  communication skills for lawyers. These software programs make use for easy and convenient management of information like research on library books, organizing accounts or finances, court case management etc. Lawyers can then have almost total control of information now available at their fingertips. Of course, all these make the practice of the law more organized and less stressful. Furthermore, it enhances quicker communication.
            The customized software makes research and referencing, document assembly and management, production of legal documents, office management, law library management, case monitoring, invoicing and billing, income and expenditure monitoring easy. Since most of the documents produced in a law office are a continuous stream of repetitions, the legal  IT software have inbuilt machinery and fields for easy retrieval of precedence etc.
3.      Audio Visual Technology
            The audio visual facility enables representations to be made graphically on-screen for clearer and better understanding of issues being canvassed. For example, this technology can be used during chambers meetings. A witness can use this facility to graphically demonstrate to the court the scene of an accident. This will make for better understanding of the surrounding circumstances. Lawyers can facilitate during their address by using the power point program facility to emphasize the points they want to make and also show on screen the cases they are referring to without the need to continually spell out words etc as the judge can see everything on screen. The court can refer to the diskette version of the presentation later. Visual images convey powerful conscious and unconscious message
4.      E-mail
      The internet provides the facility to send messages by e-mail. Text can be sent at any time to any e-mail address in the world, cheaply and quickly. The use of the e-mail facility to send and receive message has reduced expenditure on local and international telephone calls. The use of e-mail also has the advantage of  avoiding expenses on transportation for delivery of documents.
      Lawyers can send information and update on cases to their clients within and outside the country at little cost and expeditiously.

3.5       Challenges of ICT in Nigerian Legal Profession
            To every new development, there are legal implications. The use of IT definitely has its own fair share of legal implications and areas of dispute which a legal practitioner must watch out for. This is not simply because they can be very good sources of new briefs and hence another fee earning source, but some of them are equally areas that may cause exposure to liabilities with  respect to an average user, a lawyer inclusive. Such areas include but not limited to, issues of copyright and disputes arising out of trademark registration with respect to the internet.[22]  
            Also problematic is the issue relating to cyber crime. These challenges will be treated in the next chapter.

3.6       Suggestions to a More Effective Utilization of ICT in Nigerian      Legal Profession. 
To be effective, certain things have got to be put in place. The use of IT in legal profession has become particularly important because the work of legal practitioners involves a high level of documentation and information processing, storage and retrieval which comes through efficient use of IT gadgets. Thus, the implementation of the under listed suggestions will undoubtedly enable Nigerian lawyers to compete favorably with colleagues in advanced countries in the use of IT techniques for legal service delivery. To achieve this success, the following suggestions shall be in place:

1.      Mass IT Education
            There should be mass IT education throughout the country beginning from nursery school to tertiary level. To make this happen, ICT related subjects/ courses shall be made obligatory as one of the subjects of study from kindergarten to tertiary level.    
            There should be seminars, workshops and television programs on the need to acquire IT skills by Nigerian students in general and law students in particular. This should be sponsored not only by the government, non-governmental organizations and other well meaning Nigerians should give a helping hand.
2.       Training of Legal Practitioners  
Legal practitioners, judges and lawyers should be adequately trained on the culture of using IT in the discharge of their duties. To make this work, the Nigerian Bar Association, should map out plans which aims at encouraging/directing judges to deliver their judgments through IT  gadgets. Conferences and workshops should be organized for Nigerian lawyers on how to benefit from IT usage.
            Similarly, law students should be taught computer in the course of reading and studying law in the university.
3.      Promulgation of ICT laws by Nigerian legislature
            Nigerian legislature should make good laws that would protect the use of ICT in Nigeria. On this note, their dogged effort which materialized in the emergence of the new Evidence Act 2011, is praise worthy. This is because, it provides among other things, for the admissibility of electronic documents in evidence.[23]
            It is therefore recommended that the Nigerian legislature should enact more laws to regulate cyber crime related offences in the country.       

[1] Evidence Act 2011
[2] Audu Echono, ‘ICT And the Advancement of Legal Studies and Practice in Nigeria’
  Thelawyerschronicle.com>Home>Internet law (visited 24th May, 2013).
[3] Ibid
[4] Bryan A. Garner, ‘Black’s Law Dictionary,’ Ninth Edition, (Texas:West Publishing Co, 2009) P1291.
[5] Evidence Act 2011.
[6] Yemi Osibanjo, ‘Electronically Generated Evidence’ In Afe Babalola-law & Practice of Evidence in Nigeria, 2011 at pp 243-273. 
[7] T.I. Akomoledge, ‘Contemporary Legal Is sues in Electronic Commerce in Nigeria’ (2003) 3 Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal.. current Trends in Law & Practice Journal vol. 1 2011 p 39. 
[8] Valentine B. Ashi, ‘Challenges of Electronic Banking and Debt Recovery in Nigeria: The Issue of Admissibility of Computer  Print out of Customs Statements of Account in  Judicial Proceedings’ [2003-2005] ABU Journal of commercial Law Vol. 2, No 2 at pp 87-97.
[9] Sebastian Hon, ‘Law of Evidence in Nigeria: Substantive and procedural’. 2006 at pp 754-767.
[10] Andrew I. chukwuemerie, ‘Affidavit Evidence and Electronically Generated  materials is Nigerian courts’ (2006) 3:  
 3 Script –ed 176-202.Curent Trends in Law and Practice Journal vol. 1 2011 p 41.
[11] Ibid Andrew I. Chukwuemerie.
[12] Jacob vs Attorney General, Akwa Ibon state [2002] FWLR (pt 86) 578 CA.
[13] Ibid Andrew I. Chukwuemerie.
[14] [1987] 3 N. W. L. R 84 (Part 59)
[15] [2001] 16 N.W.L.R 510 (PART 740).
[16] Evidence Act 2011.
[17] Section 85  of the Evidence Act 2011.
[18] Evidence Act 2011
[19] Mrs. Roli Harriman, ‘Information Technology and Communications Skills’. Current Trends in law & Practice Journal Vol. 1 2011 p 106.
[20] Ibid  Mrs. Roli Harriman
[21] Ibid Mrs. Roli Harriman.
[22] Mr. Kanyinsola Ajayi, ‘Information Technology and Legal Practice.’ Continuing legal Education Workshop Series  A journal workshop series 2003/2004 . A Journal  of the Nigerian Bar Association. P 12
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