THE Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LAC) and Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI), on Tuesday, called for practical solutions for sustainable legal empowerment and access to justice.
The IWEI, an NGO and LAC, made the call at the first National Paralegal Event in Abuja, with theme: ‘Justice for All’.
Speaking at the event, the Director-General of LAC, Mr Aliyu Abubakar, in his welcome address said the rationale behind the summit was the need especially for community paralegals to have understanding of the concepts.
In addition, he laid emphasis on assessment of the Nigerian legal empowerment movement, network and ways to improve and sustain already existing efforts.
Abubakar further said ” there are about 150,000 practicing Lawyers in Nigeria providing legal services to a population of about 200 million people.
” The larger number of our citizens reside in rural communities, while the most of our practising lawyers are based in the urban centres.
” This has left a huge gap in our people accessing justice in rural area’s, hence, the need for paralegal service.
“The way forward in enhancing access to justice to all citizens is the institutionalization of the paralegal services to complement and assist the legal professionals in the discharge of services in the justice sector”, Abubakar said.
Mrs Mariam Uwais, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investment programmes, who is also the Founder of IWEI said her job as an assistant to the President had exposed her to the needs of the majority of the citizens.
” There are so many challenges citizens face on a day to day basis out there, people do not know what their rights are and how to access them.
” It is for this reason the initiative came up with ways to help these group of people to have a sense of belonging through provision of legal services.
“However, we cannot do much without compassion, as compassion is required in rendering legal services for these people”, Uwais added.
In his address, Prof. Muhammed Ladan, the DG of Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) said amending the Legal Aid Act 2011 was not enough.
Ladan advocated that steps should be taken beyond the amendment to implement the portion of the Constitution which stated that indigent citizens should be provided with financial and legal aid to enable them have access to pursue justice.
Prof. Isa Chiroma, the DG of Nigerian Law School, on his part promised that starting from the next academic session, the school would be sending students to LAC and its other sisters agencies as its way of ensuring that justice gets to all.
Prof. Chidi Odinkalu in his keynote address emphasised on the importance of paralegals as providers of legal services to the excluded and indigent.
“Paralegals provide complementary legal services in places where lawyers often don’t access or can’t go.
“Complementary because they do not and should not supplant the work of lawyers.
” Nigeria do not have enough lawyers to address its legal aid challenges, therefore it necessary to open the space for law clinics and paralegals to offer this service under the supervisions of lawyers”, the law professor said.
News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) reports that a paralegal performs specifically delegated substantive legal work under the supervision of a lawyer.
NAN reports that participants were actively involved as they asked questions, respond to questions and shared ideas.
There were session where participants had hands-on, interactive group work and came up with solutions to real access to justice issues.
Insights were gained into some of these problems during panel presentations.
At the end of the summit, participants were encouraged to start new collaborations, initiate scale-able sustainable ideas and were able to learn from people with wide range backgrounds and experiences.
The summit was supported by partners like MacArthur Foundation and Global Namati. (NAN)
– Oct. 8, 2019 @ 14:45 GMT |