The Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, on Friday, said his administration will support and provide free legal services to the the poor and indigent residents of the state.
Abiodun made this known during the formal launch of the Ogun Public Interest Law Partnership and Police Duty Solicitor Scheme, held at the Obas’ Complex, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
According to him, the inability of the poor and the vulnerable to have access to justice may not only cause great suffering for those affected, but could ultimately result in social and economic turmoil with dire consequences for the society.
He, however, disclosed that his administration through the Citizens’ Rights Department as well as the Legal Aid Council, have thus far supported the provision of voluntary legal services to the under-privileged and disadvantaged in the state.
The governor noted that the full-scale commencement of the OPILP in Ogun is in alignment with the disposition of his administration to provide practical mechanisms for the realization of the rights of residents and citizens as enshrined in the constitution of the country
He added that the scheme would be properly to ensure that it is not abused by people with sufficient means to afford the services of lawyers.
Abiodun who noted that court remains the last bastion of defence for the common man, stressed his administration’s resolve to give Ogun residents the opportunity to have their grievances properly represented before a court of law, regardless of their means or lack.
While saying that the OPILP is a collaboration between the public and private sectors to develop and expand the provision of free legal services in the state, maintained that the scheme would enhance access to justice and address other legal needs of the indigent, disadvantaged and marginalised residents across the three senatorial districts of the state.
He explained further that “the initiative would enable citizens seeking free legal services submit applications to the OPILP, have them matched with lawyers or law firms registered with the nearest NBA branch, as well as ensure that such applicants are provided with free legal representation, adding “once lawyers once assigned, they would be monitored by OPILP to ensure that they give assigned matters the requisite priority with a view to concluding them swiftly and effectively”.
While inaugurating a Steering Committee for the partnership, Abiodun commended the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu and the Commissioner of Police, Edward Ajogun, for their support towards ensuring that the people of the state have access to good legal representation and a secure environment.
“The Steering Committee will comprise of the five Chairmen of the Nigeria Bar Association Branches in the State, a representative of the Justice Research Institute who would serve as members; the Chairperson of the Ogun State Chapter of FIDA; Mrs. Kemi Osisanya, and the Chairman of the Ogun State Coalition of Civil Society, Yinka Folarin who would serve as observers, and Mr. Yemi Adewole, the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice who would serve as an auxiliary member”, the governor submitted.
Earlier in his address, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Akingbolahan Adeniran who disclosed that under the Ogun Public Interest Law Partnership, the Nigeria Bar Association in partnership with the state government and the Justice Research Institute, would not only provide free legal services to indigent members of the state, but the need to seek advice on how to navigate the justice sector, as well as a need to challenge unjust actions.
The Attorney General added that the contact details of the solicitors could be obtained by members of the public through the Twitter handle of the ministry @ MoJ_Ogun, or at the Citizens Right Department of the ministry, as well as the five Nigeria Bar Association branch offices in the state.
While commending the Dapo Abiodun-led administration for the support given to the Judiciary, Adeniran disclosed that the state government will in the next few weeks launch other justice sector programmes such as the transit-to-data driven system of justice administration and the introduction of forensics into criminal investigation and prosecution.
This, according to him, would help to improve the experiences of residents in terms of justice dispensation.
Also speaking, Magistrate Olukemi Adebo, while throwing more light into the idea behind the partnership, said that the purpose of the scheme is to ensure that a lawyer is available at every police station in the state, to ensure that no one is detained illegally.
“The initiative is to make sure that we have a lawyer on duty at every police station within the state, and the duty of the solicitor on duty at each station is to make sure that no one is unnecessarily detained, make sure that whoever is entitled to bail secure one and also make sure that the process of statement taking is actually legit,” she said.
Adebo, however, disclosed that the scheme currently has over 160 lawyers.