What about those whose trial had stopped due to unavailability of Investigative Police Officers or a case of missing case files? What of those on holding charges, or affected by delay or unavailability of DPP advice? They are there in prison wailing for nothing too. So many awaiting trails could be innocent and poor. But they are there in overcrowded and congested prisons making one to wonder if justice is for the wealthy?
Here justice seems expensive and I don’t know why it is that so. Could it be real that laws are made for the poor and not for the rich? You see, laws without justice is like a body without a soul. It is somehow mind blowing to know that by estimation over 4 billion people do not enjoy protection afforded by law. That over 3 billion people living in countries of the world are violated of civic freedom according to the new CIVICUS monitor tool I’ve just used. Grass root access to justice is far fetched as law practice continues to be more concentrated in urban rich circles. Law courts are located not in rural centers, lack of information, illiteracy, linguistic barriers, high cost for filling claims, coupled with entrenched stigma; all makes justice tall and far for poor. But I know that justice, I mean quality and timely justice can support development and eradicate poverty. Yet my eyes are on the justice gap in Nigeria. I am only but a watchdog.
These gaps gives needful rising for Paralegal Services. Peradventure justice could be timely and court less burdened. Have you seen civil cases in Nigeria courts that have lingered for years endlessly? Whereas such need not be in first place. A case that- Am sorry would have resolved in minute is all piled up in our courts. Where there are no Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism, and where there is, the poor do not know how to access same.
But if we are to lay to rest this entire conversion, we shall refer to the Act of Legal Aid Council 2011 Nigeria.
Legal Aid council Nigeria is an establishment under the Federal Ministry of Justice. It was established pursuant to the promulgation of Legal Aid Decree No.56 of 1976 later amended by the Legal Aid Act Cap L9, Law of Federation 2004, and now repealed by the Legal Aid Act 2011 to enhance the Rule of Law through the provision of free legal assistance and advice to indigents.
In Nigeria, Global Rights, WARDC, CIRDDOC, Lawyer Alerts, CMRC, JEI, IWEI are on ground pioneering Paralegal services.
To this end, as BAN Ki Moon, former UN Secretary General once said, “We are all stakeholders in a collective enterprise to eradicate poverty, build a sustainable world and leave no one behind. Everybody’ future is at stake. That is why I want everybody to be informed and engaged”.
And that is exactly what I am doing as a Paralegal by putting law skills and information into your hand, thereby creating awareness that will bridge justice gaps and make justice system more inclusive and closer to the people both socially and geographically.
To me, human rights are meaningless unless they can be enforced. I have always wanted to be paralegal. What about you?