NGO Decries Lack of Free Legal Services for Underprivileged

By Ikeugonna Eleke

A non-governmental organization (NGO), Access to Justice, has decried the dearth of free legal service providers among legal practitioners to underprivileged persons who need them.

Deji Ajare, a project director for the group, stated this during a two-day capacity building workshop in Awka, Anambra State, on the Anti-Torture Act and Draft Rule that guided the implementation even held for legal practitioners, civil society organizations and the media.

Ajare, who was also a resource person at the workshop, while speaking on the topic; ”The challenges of providing free legal services to the poor”, said lack of lawyers who offered pro bono services was part of the reason for many awaiting trial victims in the nation’s correctional centres today.

He emphasized that if more lawyers offered free legal services to underprivileged persons awaiting trial in most correctional centres across the country, the problem of congestion in correctional centres would be a thing of the past.

‘We all know there are challenges associated with offering free legal services, which range from filing processes, transportation to the court, and sometimes, when doing pro bono, you have to take over the welfare of the witness or victim too.

‘We need more lawyers to enlist in offering pro bono services, nevertheless,” he said, adding that it was for that reason that the group was building a mobile app that would help connect lawyers who were interested in handling free legal services where people could visit to connect with lawyers that could help them in states and towns across the country.

‘We are still building the application, but we call on lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, to enlist on the platform so that once the app comes up, people can log in and contact you for help.

‘These days, you see a lawyer who is ready to do pro bono jobs when it has to do with robbery, but won’t touch domestic violence. Others would rather do pro bono for terrorism than do it for other areas of crime. It is their specialty, but this app will connect people who have specialty in all fields, including media and human rights organisations, and we urge you to key in,’ he added.