A welcome address was delivered by the Director General, Legal Aid Council (LAC),
Aliyu Bagudu Abubakar where he stated with statistics (150000 Practicing Lawyers
in Nigeria to render legal services for a teeming population of about 200 million
people) the inadequacies in the number of lawyers in Nigeria and the need for
support and assistance in accessing justice through paralegal services for the most
vulnerable in the society. He also pointed out the difference in number of resident
lawyers in urban centers in comparison with the larger population of rural based
community members. Hence, the need for paralegal services in bridging the gap.
This was followed by message of encouragement from Mrs Maryam Uwais MFR,
Founder, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI) who commended the team for an
interesting initiative. She affirmed her exposure to the needs of the majority of the
Nigerian people through her current job as Special Adviser to the President on Social
Investment. Also, she stated how critical it is for our people to understand their rights
as Nigerian citizens and how to access them. In addition, she commended all of the
stakeholders who are putting in efforts to address these challenges. On her final
note, she acknowledged that eventually our country citizens will feel a sense of
belonging, sense of ownership and that Nigeria cares for its people.
Other dignitaries present at the summit included: Professor Akinseye George, who
spoke on behalf of the President, Network of University Legal Aid Institutions
Professor Ernest Ojukwu SAN (NULAI), he said it was a day of personal fulfillment
for him because of his experience at the Ministry of Justice. Also, he acknowledged
the immense contributions of past heroes (where he requested for a minute silence
in honor of late colleague Chief Chimezie Ikeazor who championed the enactment of
the Legal Aid Act). He expressed his delight for the collaboration of CSOs with LAC.
The Professor quoted ‘’until we lionize the protection of the poor we are not going
anywhere in this country”.
Dr Fatima Waziri from the Office of the Vice President FRN, congratulated LAC and
commended IWEI for a fantastic initiative, she stated the importance of paralegals in
filling the existing gap and that the office of the Vice President is happy to collaborate
on this project. More so, that the paralegal scheme must be institutionalized to
provide the much needed support to all.
Professor M. T. Ladan, DG Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies (NIALS), in
his remarks, he emphasized that the constitution clearly states that the National
Assembly shall put measures on ground to ensure that indigent members of Nigeria are provided with financial aid to enable them access justice. It is a fundamental right
of the citizens to access justice.
Professor Hayatu Ciroma, Director General, Nigeria Law School, also commended
the initiative and that they are willing to support the LAC in every way possible.
The Key note address was delivered by Professor Chidi Odinkalu from Open Society
Foundation, where he started by commending the initiative and reiterated the
importance of the paralegals who dispense services that money cannot buy. He
stressed the need for putting other Nigerians first especially the most vulnerable that
cannot access justice. Furthermore, he talked about rethink and re-imagination of
legal education, doing more with less, the 2011 Legal Aid Act, complementing legal
services and the significance of setting standards to avoid abuse of poor people.
Lastly, he called on all stakeholders including the bar association to take interest in
this cause and make access to justice deliverable to the poor.
PANEL 1: Paralegal Services in Nigeria
Moderator: Fatima Adamu (PM, IWEI)
Panelists: Amir Abdusalam (IWEI Paralegal), Joy Ogbona (JEI Paralegal), Evelyn
Okoro (LAC), Linda Reuben (PRAWA Paralegal)
This was a paralegal panel where experiences, success stories and challenges were shared by
the paralegals and the session ended with a call for legal aid certification by the Legal Aid
PANEL 2: International Best Practices in Paralegal Services and Efforts towards
Moderator: Amina Hanga (ES, IWEI)
Panelists: Stanley Ibe (Open Society Justice Initiative), Aimee Ongeso (NAMATI,
Kenya), Sonkita Conteh (NAMATI, Sierra Leone)
PANEL 3: Challenges and Opportunities for Paralegal and the Way Forward
Moderator: Andrew Maki (Co-Director JEI)
Panelists: Aliyu B. Abubakar DG LAC, Grace Mlumum Igyo (NBA), Ogechi Ogu
(PRAWA), Abiodun Baiyewu (Global Rights Nigeria)
Commitments from DG LACON
In conclusion, paralegals will continue to grow, diversify and take on more important
work in the society as there is a need and the paralegal model is flexible. Government
should ensure it keeps the space open for paralegals to work. The challenges that
paralegals could face are mainly: Lawyers and formalization and a tier system could
The United Nations Principles and Guidelines are founded on the idea that access to legal aid is an essential element of a fair, humane and efficient criminal justice system, and thus of the rule of law. In the absence of access to justice, people are unable to have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision-makers accountable. It also emphasizes the right of equal access to justice for all, including members of vulnerable groups.
In Nigeria however, the bulk of lawyers are located in the urban areas whereas the
underprivileged and vulnerable individuals and communities in Nigeria who account for over 70% of the population and live in rural areas. Other challenges are language barriers where interpretation is not easily available, and access to lawyers who are able to communicate effectively with their clients may pose a further challenge.
These challenges are further exacerbated by physical distance, and prevailing cultures of
social exclusion. Lack of information and low literacy levels results in a lack of public
awareness on rights of citizens and how to manoeuvre the justice system. Lack of access to justice is worst for people who live in extreme poverty, and particularly for women.
There are tens of thousands of people currently held in pre-trial detention in Nigeria for
minor and bail-able offences. Their lack of access to legal advice and the slow and
cumbersome judicial systems keep them confined for long periods that can stretch into years thereby depriving them of their human rights, when bail is actually a valid alternative.
The Council has adopted two types of paralegal schemes to tackle these challenges –
paralegals who are attached to lawyers and perform solicitor’s duties and community
paralegals who perform community legal services. The Council has recently been
collaborating with NGOs and institutions who render paralegal services.
In May 2019, the Council in collaboration with Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI), sponsored by MacArthur Foundation, organized a 2-day National Stakeholder Consultative
Forum on Paralegal Services in Nigeria. Among the participants were Government Agencies within the Justice Sector such as the National Human Rights Commission, Federal Ministry of Justice and Nigerian Law Reform Commission. Non-Governmental Organizations rendering paralegal services also participated in the workshop. Amongst them were Global Rights Nigeria, Women’s Health and Equal Rights Initiative, Justice Empowerment Initiative, Bauchi Human Rights Network, and Nigerian Universities Legal Aid Institutions.
Other institutions include the Nigerian Bar Association and Cleen Foundation.
Speaking at the National Stakeholders Consultative Forum on Paralegals Services in Nigeria, the Director General LAC, Aliyu Bagudu Abubakar revealed that the Council is ready at all times to promote and support any effort by individuals or organization whose aim is to advance the course of justice to Nigerians.
Mr Aliyu B. Abubakar commended IWEI while revealing that the non-governmental
organization had over the years executed Community Paralegal Services in rural and urban
centres of the country, also said the two day workshop would focus on creating a robust rural based community paralegal services. “The larger percentage of our population in Nigeria has difficulty in accessing justice and these persons are domiciled in the rural area.
The reasons are not far-fetched. Lawyers who ordinarily would have provided services to our citizens in the local communities are concentrated in the cities thereby making our people who are poor, geographically isolated or otherwise vulnerable to lack access to assistance in solving their justice problems. Meanwhile, in these communities, the people are faced with legal issues such as crime, land, matrimonial and so on. Hence, paralegals have a key role to play”, he said.
Executive Director of IWEI, Amina Hanga who said one of the responsibilities of IWEI is to provide paralegal assistance to those who cannot access or afford justice said, “There are just a hundred thousand registered lawyers in Nigeria within a population of over 190 million people, majority of whom are in the rural areas. This is roughly one lawyer for over 1700 people. The effect is that legal aid continues to elude those in needs such as the illiterates and people living in the rural areas”.
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A 2-DAY NATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS WORKSHOP / CONSULTATIVE FORUM ON PARALEGAL SERVICES IN NIGERIA ORGANIZED BY ISA WALI EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVE (IWEI) IN COLLABORATION WITH LEGAL AID COUNCIL OF NIGERIA (LAC).
1.0 A 2-day National Stakeholders Workshop / Consultative Forum on Paralegal Services in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges organized by IWEI in collaboration with LACON was held from Wednesday 22nd to Thursday 23rd May 2019 at the Barca Liga Hotels Ltd. Plot 2422 Franca Afegbua Crescent Abuja, FCT Nigeria.
The forum had the following key objectives:
i) To increase awareness among stakeholders on the role community-based paralegals
play in in promoting and improving access to justice and the challenges they face in
accomplishing their tasks.
ii) To share findings of the rapid assessment on identified challenges and bottlenecks to
the development and implementation of a National Operational Guideline for
paralegal services in Nigeria.
iii) To develop a workplan/action plan and roadmap for the development and
implementation of a National Operational Guideline for paralegal services in Nigeria.
iv) To constitute a Technical Working Group (TWG) from among the stakeholders to be
responsible for the implementation of all resolutions and consensus reached.
2.0 The forum was attended by 46 participants from the public sector institution,
professional associations, and civil society organizations from the justice system LACON,
IWEI, JusticeEmpowerment Initiatives, Women’s health and Equal Rights Initiative (WHEI),
PRAWA, Federal minister of Justice, Citizens’ Rights Department Abuja, NAPTIP, OSJI, Bauchi Human Rights Network (BAHRN), NLRC, CIRDDOC, Leadership Newspaper, Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Voice of Nigeria, CLEEN Foundation, NBA, NHRC, ROLAC, Nulai Nigeria, Justice and Empowerment Initiative, CINSI, Global Rights Nigeria, MacArthur Foundation.
3.0 The forum was declared opened by the Director General LACON Aliyu B Abubakar
Esq and had a keynote address presented by Hajiya Amina Hanga, Executive Secretary IWEI.
Participating organizations involved in access to justice programs and initiatives shared
experiences and challenges working to improve access to justice in communities through
paralegal services in Nigeria.
4.0 Two technical working groups were formed during the forum proceedings to brainstorm
on legal and operational framework for community based paralegal services in Nigeria.
5.0 A committee was formed during the forum proceedings to brainstorm and suggest
modalities for a planned National summit of paralegal services in Nigeria.
6.0 At the end of the 2-day deliberations, the forum observed the following:
i) Community based paralegal services is adequately provided for in the legal aid act
ii) Legal aid act 2011mandates LACoN to license persons to practice as paralegals after
undergoing a prescribed course
iii) Paralegal services are classified according to types of cases and issues involved and also location
iv) There is inadequate knowledge and awareness about the provisions of the Legal Aid
Act 2011 on paralegals even among key sector stakeholders.
v) There are currently no national standard operating guidelines for paralegal services
vi) A paralegal service in Nigeria currently is challenged by lack of standardization,
institutional legitimacy, and general acceptability.
7.0 The forum recommended the following:
• LACON should create an operational framework for the implementation of the
• LACON should urgently develop operational guidelines for paralegal services based
on mandate and provisions of the legal aid act 2011
• LACON should put in place licensing and regulatory systems for training and
• LACON should lead all stakeholders for increased advocacy and awareness
campaigns on relevance and importance of community-based paralegals
• A National summit on paralegal services in Nigeria be held in early October 2019.
• A comprehensive report of the resolutions and recommendations of this workshop
be sent to the Legal Aid Council board for their consideration