THE LEGAL AID COUNCIL 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
The Council in commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of its existence which has spanned from 1976 to 2016 was held on the 22nd of November 2016 at Bolton White Hotel, Garki, Abuja.
The event, which was sponsored by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, was chaired by Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello, Chief Judge of the FCT High Court. The Nigeria Prison Service Band and the Legal Aid Council Choir were there to spice up the event.
The chairman of the occasion Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello, Chief Judge of the FCT High Court in his opening remarks welcomed everyone to the event saying that the 40th anniversary was a celebration of the protection of the down trodden in the society. He emphasized that he had had series of deliberations on the challenges of the Legal Aid Council and had resolved to utilize all relevant resources to resolving them holistically in order to meet the teeming needs of the indigent in accessing Justice.
The Director General of the Legal Aid Council Mrs. Joy Bob Manuel in her welcome address expressed her delight and gratitude at being the Director General at this time of the 40th anniversary. She ascribed the successes achieved in recent times mainly to the partnerships and technical assistance offered by Development Partners of the Council that have included the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Justice for All (J4A), World Bank, Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), Open Society Initiative West Africa (OSIWA), United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Nigerian Universities Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI), Prisons Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) amongst others. She also thanked all those who have in one way or the other contributed to the vision and mission of the Council.
Special Remarks and Goodwill Messages were delivered by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Prof. Yemi Osinbajo duly represented by Mr. Gbolahan. He delivered the Vice President’s special remarks in which was reiterated the fondness and high regards the Council enjoyed in the heart of the Vice President because of the level of importance of her activities. These activities, he said, have contributed to enhancing Access to Justice and redressing wrongs in a civilized society such as Nigeria. He further congratulated the Legal Aid Council on her 40th anniversary and wished them well.
Messages were also delivered by the Representative of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Dayo Akpata, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) represented by Ms. Cristina Albertin, the Executive Secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) Ms. Sharon Ikeazor (a daughter of one of the founding fathers of the Legal Aid Council Chief Chimezie Ikeazor SAN), Mr. Patrick Ani, representative of the Controller General of the Nigeria Prisons Service, Mr. Yinka Lawal, representing the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Mr. Olagunju, the Secretary General of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and Mr. Godwin Odo of Justice for All (J4A).
The Key Note Address was delivered by Prof. Ernest Ojukwu which he themed: “40 years of Legal Aid, The way forward”. In his address, he proposed that in a bid to aid prison decongestion, sentencing to Community Service should be given to people guilty of minor criminal offences. Prof. Ojukwu also advocated the introduction of “Social Justice and Public interest law” as a compulsory course in tertiary institutions as a prerequisite to the award of an L.L.B Degree. This, he said would go a long way in grooming and educating young ones on the importance of social justice.
The Book Reviewer was the Dean Faculty of Law, Nasarawa State University Prof. Abdulkareem Kana. He reviewed the two publications to be presented for launching at the event. These publications are the “40 Years of Legal Aid Council in Nigeria” and “Legal Aid through the Cases Vol.3” which is a compendium of selected Legal Aid cases that have had justice delivered which are stellar and could be precedents in Legal Aid Delivery.
Prof. Kama provided a brief historical profile as well as major achievements and milestones of the Council. He encouraged lawyers to see the legal profession as a community service rather than an avenue to enrich themselves.
Dr. Uju Agomoh of the UNODC, presented a review of the 2017 – 2022 Strategic Plan on the Legal Aid Scheme in Nigeria. She emphasized that the need for the strategic plan arose with the need to help implement the Legal Aid Act 2011 to the letter, enhance the Legal Aid Scheme in Nigeria, provide a framework for the coordination of stakeholders and Pro-bono services in Nigeria. She highlighted some other cross cutting issues such as building and sustaining capacity, adequate monitoring and evaluation as well as risk and mitigation techniques.
The formal launching and presentation of the publications was carried out by the Chairman of the occasion, Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello together with other dignitaries at the event. He thanked all those who had contributed to the publications of each of the two books unveiled.
Awards were also presented to some development partners, private practitioners (Probono) and LACoN staff. A post humous award was also presented to Late Chief Chimezie Ikeazor.
In his closing remarks, the Chief Judge once again congratulated the Legal Aid Council on the occasion of her 40th anniversary and commended the efforts and achievements under the able leadership of Mrs. Joy Bob-Manuel. He promised to provide support and assistance in whatever capacity he can, to see that the vision of providing free legal assistance to the indigent is realized.
The event closed with a vote of thanks on behalf of staff of Legal Aid Council, Nigeria was given by Mr. Mukhtar L. Usman.
Uchenna Ebo, Head, Planning Unit,
Planning, Research and Statistics Department.