…TO PROVIDE LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES FOR POOR NIGERIANS
The Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) has launched Court Duty Solicitors Scheme (CDSS) an initiative of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to provide legal representation to indigent Nigerians who cannot afford legal fees. The Secretary of the ACJMC, Sulayman Dawodu made this known at the official launch of the Court Duty Solicitors Scheme in Abuja on Monday 1st August, 2022.
Dawodu explained that the scheme is a reflection of what has been on-going in terms of the implementation of their mandate of ensuring speedy trial and decongestion of correctional and detention facilities. ‘’We started within the Police Station Duty and they have covered about 16 divisions in the FCT by placing lawyers at the station who are representing the indigent and those who don’t have legal representative to go through their interviews to secure bail and ensure welfare application of their right”.
He further explained that there is always an overflow of referrals of those suspects that have been charged to court and these are all hanging loose and no one to represent them when they get charged, adding that they also represent some through arrangement to plead guilty or not guilty. The ACJMC secretary explained that they abide by code of conduct and rules of professional conduct hoping that with all the stakeholders present there is room for development. He further explained that, they are piloting the scheme with 3 lawyers in the FCT and they would be able to expand the scheme because they have the budget.
While unveiling the Newsletter titled ‘’ACJMC Herald’’ (5th Edition), He informed that the newsletter is called Herald because it covers the good news of ACJA. Speaking on the experiences and challenges, the Operation Manager, Free Criminal Defence and Bail Initiative, Uche Christian Nwora explained that when people are brought to court especially magistrate court and Upper Area Court, some of them don’t have access to lawyers, this is where the lawyers step in to stand for the person and apply for the bail and if court is not on sit that day it is administrative bail, adding that police will grant the bail pending when the matter will appear in court.
Nwora further explained that, over 50 cases have been handled. Director Magistrates, Celestine O. Odo enumerated some of the guidelines for the Court Duty Solicitors Scheme which includes the following; ensuring that the bail condition of the defendant is well perfected, explaining the nature of the case to the defendant, there should be sentencing hearing to know the character of the defendant, facilitating the bail of the defendant and amongst others.
High Court Judge, Justice Mabel Bello urged the committee to collaborate with Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), to ensure that more female solicitors are brought on board and to help handle cases that are female sensitive.