Mr Oliver Chukwuma, Zonal Director, South East Legal Aid Council, says that Enugu and Anambra States were the only states giving financial support to the Legal Aid Council in Nigeria.
He said this on Tuesday in Enugu at a one-day sensitization workshop for stakeholders on the role and responsibility of Legal Aid Council in the administration of justice in South East.
The workshop was organised by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
In a paper, titled: “the statutory role and responsibility of the Legal Aid Council’’, Chukwuma said that the lack of adequate funding is the biggest challenge facing the council.
“The Legal Aid Council is faced with inadequate funding which hinders it from actualizing its mandate.
“The Council relies largely on fund from the Federal Government which may not be adequate in running the affairs of the Council in relation to the actualization of its statutory objectives.
“Today, Enugu and Anambra States are the only states in Nigeria that are funding the Legal Aid Council,’’ he said.
He highlighted other challenges facing the Council to include the lack of office infrastructure, nearness to the public, inadequate manpower, poor condition of service, insecurity and cultural beliefs.
The director said that the Nigerian Legal Aid Council required serious and urgent development to meet international standard.
“All stakeholders, including governments at all levels, communities, traditional institutions, Civil Society organizations and security operatives must obey the rule of law as provided in the Constitution.
“The stakeholders such as government, individual organization should also support and fund the Legal Aid Providers in the country as done in foreign countries,’’ he said.
Chukwuma said there is the need for constant public enlightenment campaign through the mass media to create awareness on the existence of the council.
“Adequate remunerations should be paid to external Lawyers who are rendering legal services on the scheme,’’ he said.
He said that to strengthen the services of the Council, some constitutional provisions such as freedom of expression, free press, vibrant civil society and judiciary independence, must be obeyed.
In his contribution, Mr Sam Udekwe, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Enugu State Council, urged the council to always involve the media in its activities for proper enlightenment of the public.
“We are ready to partner with the Legal Aid Council to ensure justice for the indigent members of the society, particularly in Enugu State,’’ he said.
Mrs Ngozi Ajogu, representing the International Federation of Female Lawyers, Enugu State, said that many lawyers are interested in joining the Legal Aid Council but are hindered by lack of remuneration.
“I know many Lawyers who are willing to come to Legal Aid but there are no incentives,’’ she said. (NAN)
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