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Group charges lawyers on free services for indigents

Lawyers<br />

Justice Research Institute (JRI), has called on lawyers to promote rule of law, access to justice and social justice through the use of pro-bono services for indigent Nigerians.

JRI executive director, Ikem Isiekwena made the call in a keynote speech and presentation on “Closing the Justice Gap” at the start-up meeting on the fight against sexual and gender-based violence held in Oshogbo, Osun State recently.

He described pro bono as the form of legal aid or assistance where no payment at all is made to a lawyer and comes at no cost to the client.

He said the JRI, in collaboration with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), with the support of the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), is working to facilitate and promote the pro-bono culture in Nigeria through the establishment of clearing houses at strategic locations in the country.

The clearing houses, he said, will have a central portal that will be used to connect partner lawyers and firms to indigent persons.

The project, he added, will provide pro bono services to key cases, which include domestic violence, child abuse, land displacement, disinheritance by reason of gender, and disinheritance of widows and orphans, amongst other key priority areas.

“Pro bono acts as a safeguard to ensure that the quality of service given to the client – who in this case will be the indigent and vulnerable – is not in any way compromised.

“Before lawyers sign on to the clearing houses, they will subscribe to certain rules and regulations which protects the client and gives him/her the right to demand for the same service as a paying client. In addition, the clearing houses also gives lawyers a chance to work on specific cases that are within their areas of expertise and/or passion,” Isiekwena said.

Officials of the state of Osun who graced the event, were Dr. Ajibola Bashiru, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, who convened the start-up roundtable meeting, Dr. Oyebade Olowogboyega, Head of Service, Dr Rafiu Kusamotu, Commissioner of Health, Mr Kolapo Alimi, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mrs. Latifat Giwa, Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, Mrs. Mofolake Adegboyega, Commissioner for Empowerment and Youth Engagement, Mr. L.O Arojo, the Chief Registrar, High Court of Justice, Osun State and representatives from the Nigeria Prisons Service, the Nigeria Police Force, Legal Aid Council and other key stakeholders from the public and private sectors.

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