LEGAL AID COUNCIL – REPS MEMBER
The Chairman House Committee on Justice Honourable Ozurigbo Ugonna has called on the Legal Aid Council to use the necessary tools and provide the needed legal support to Nigerians who ordinarily cannot afford the services of lawyers in private legal practice.
Ozurigbo made the statement at an Inaugural One-Day workshop for sensitization of stakeholders on the role and responsibility of Legal Aid Council in the Administration of Justice (North Central), on Thursday November 25th 2021.
He explained that the services of the Legal Aid Council save legal cost and provide social balance which is vital for social stabilization, economic prosperity and general development of Nigeria. The Reps member explained, ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the economic misfortune of individuals, families, small and medium scale enterprises, including employees whose present economic position will not permit to have smooth access to justice without legal support’’.
‘’The steady increase in the number of those that require legal aid and assistance is forcing governments all over the world to take rapid and decisive actions to ensure the most vulnerable people and economic agents have the necessary legal support, awareness and access to channels that will address their legal problems. “Failure for governments to follow this path will surely deepen inequalities, possibly creating more divides and undermining the resilience of the people’ ’he added.
According to him, the sensitization exercise will be an eye opener to many Nigerians who are not aware of what the Legal Aid Council can do for them adding that it will go a long way to show the sincerity of the Federal Government in improving access to justice in Nigeria.
Ozurigbo said ‘’I am using this opportunity to call for the establishment of Legal Aid Council offices in the 774 Local Government Area Councils of Nigeria. This is achievable, I want the Federal Ministry of Justice to initiate and play this master stroke, for the benefit of Nigerians. “The services of Legal Aid Council in decongestion of our correctional services are commendable, but I call for more efforts, justice delayed is justice denied.
While commending the Federal Ministry of Justice for organizing the event, the chairman concluded that there is no better time to have a workshop of this nature than now, especially in the face of the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Legal Aid Lawyer Lafia, Nasarawa State., Florence David Bwala pointed some of the objectives of the workshop which include the following, Educating stakeholders on Federal Government efforts in promoting justice through the Legal Aid Council; challenges of legal aid through the legal aid Council; Boost stakeholders awareness on the benefits derivable from the services of Legal Aid Council; ensure that stakeholders gain perfect knowledge of how to apply or assist others in applying for legal aid and amongst others.
In their respective presentations, the State Coordinator Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, Nasarawa State, Hanbal A.Muh’d Zubair and Principal Partner Integ-Partners Dr. Sam Onyeka hinted the challenges faced by Legal Aid Council as follows inadequate funding, poor service delivery, limited citizens’ access to the scheme, limited slow of legal assistance and amongst others.
The Nigeria Bar Association Chairman, Keffi branch Bar Yakubu Moses Ede noted that in complementing the effort of the legal aid services, some lawyers have been offering probono services because Legal Aid lawyers cannot handle the cases alone.
Representative of the Nigeria Police Force, DCO Keffi Police Station, SP Adamu Mubarak while commending the efforts of the NBA, hinted that a lot of people are rotting in jail because they don’t have lawyers.
Representative of the Emir of Keffi Alhaji Shamsudeen Abubakar, Fagaun Keffi in his closing remarks urged the stakeholders to carry the sensitization exercise down to their respective communities and by doing so, correctional centers would be decongested.
Abubakar prayed for an end to bandits and terrors that are terrorizing the country.
The Legal Aid Scheme which was established in 1976 was amended in 2011, has 36 Legal Aid Offices and 1 in FCT, Abuja.
The stakeholders were drawn from Federal Road Safety Corps, National Youth Service Corps, Christian Association of Nigeria, Student Unions and others.