The Rights Enforcement and Public Law Centre (REPLACE) in partnership with the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme (ROLAC) of the British Council in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have embarked on a project of community sensitisation and provision of free legal aid clinics to vulnerable persons in Nigeria, particularly in Ikeja Local government Area.
The project sensitisation, which took place at the NHRC office located at No 20 Olurunimbe street, Wemabod Estate off Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja was tagged: “Improving Access to Legal Advice and Services for vulnerable persons in Nigeria”.
The major focus of the legal aid clinic project is the provision of legal assistance to women, children and people living with disabilities: with the volunteer assistance of lawyers under the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme (PDSS) and other volunteers.
According to the Lagos State Coordinator of NHRC, Mr Lucas Koyejo, the project is designed to organize awareness and legal aid clinics to vulnerable persons in communities around Lagos who may be in conflict with the COVID-19 lockdown policies of the government.
“The objective of the project is to establish a network of Police Duty Solicitors and Volunteers as a mechanism for provision of free legal services in police stations and at community level.
” The project is also aimed at increasing the access levels of free legal services by vulnerable persons. However, on appearance of the Covid-19 pandemic, vulnerable persons, who are arrested, are rarely detained in the police stations; especially after the Inspector General of Police (IGP) order on detention. Rather, they are moved immediately to mobile courts upon arrests and convicted with inadequate legal representation.
” More so, during the lockdown restriction, there were reported increase on the infringements of rights in many communities around Lagos State. It is, therefore, on this premise that the partners agreed to increase the awareness and provide access to legal assistance to indigent and vulnerable persons: women, children and Persons living with disability (PLWD) at the community level for free,” he said.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Spokesman for the Center for Citizens with Disability (CCD), Mr Peter Ekemini, said that the major problem affecting the tackling of issues relating to the welfare of disabled persons is improper documentation or the lack of data.
Mr Ekemini said that the vulnerable persons or groups in Nigeria are the most or worst hit, especially during crisis or pandemics like this one.
He said: “the government must intervene to help these vulnerable persons. During the restrictions of the lockdown, the government did little or nothing for disabled persons, especially during the sharing of palliatives. These Disabled persons were neglected and abandoned.
” No consideration was given to them and even the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, who had earlier promised to establish a disability commission also ignored them during this pandemic”.
The CCD spokesman further urged the government to create an active desk officer who would handle cases of disability and employment, including the Albinos.