By Abdulwahab Abdulah
The desire to ensure egalitarian society arising from the provision of legal services to vulnerable members of the country, motivated prominent legal luminaries including the retired Justice of the Supreme Court and Chancellor of the Lagos State University, LASU, Justice George Oguntade, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Lanre Fagbohun, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, Justice Adeniyi Adebajo (rtd), Prof Segun Yerokun, a senior advocate, Dipo Opeseyi and others to buy into the novel idea of establishing a Legal Clinic at the Faculty of Law, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos.
At the commissioning ceremony witnessed by all the dignitaries, except Justice Oguntade who was unavoidably absent penultimate week, demonstrated that much is needed for the improvement of legal practice as well as legal education in Nigeria.
Specifically, the Legal Clinic located at the Faculty of law, LASU, is aimed at providing several services among which are public interest litigation, counselling and legal advice, notary public, mediation, community enlightenment, legal representation services and training of law students attached to the Clinic among others.
At present, the Clinic is being coordinated by Dr Oluremi Salvage-Oyekunle supported by Dr Temitope Yerokun-Oloko. Interestingly, the likes of Justice George Oguntade, Femi Falana, SAN, Justice Adeniyi Adebajo (rtd), Dipo Opeseyi, SAN, and Hassan Lima, SAN and others have agreed to provide necessary legal, moral and intellectual supports for the growth and sustenance of the Clinic.
Opening the ceremony, the Dean of LASU Law Faculty, Prof. Fuminiyi Adeleke, said the Clinic was established to enable the law students to become exposed to practical aspects of law training as well as to build in them the spirit of providing free legal services to indigents and those who are vulnerable in the society.
He said: “The mantra of the Clinic is pro bono public, meaning “for the public good.” The Clinic shall, therefore, engage in giving legal assistance for free or at a substantially reduced fee (where applicable) to individuals deserving of such assistance. It will also take up matters of public interest and conduct reforms on the law and policy on issues affecting disadvantaged members of the community.”
The dignitaries who spoke included representatives of the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Funmilayo Atilade; the Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudasiru Obasa. They emphasised the need for a thorough bred lawyers and the need for the students to realise that they have a duty to build and uphold an ideal society based on social justice, liberty and democratic values.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lanre Fagboun, a law professor, said the Law Clinic is the law laboratory, meant to teach the students the rudiment of law. “It will serve as the laboratory to the lecturers as well as the students and render services to the society.”
He promised all necessary support for the newly established clinic.
Justice Adebajo in his contributions told the students to see themselves as civic rights lawyers, maintaining that the Law Faculty is taking a right step in right direction.
Falana in his remark said there is much to be done by the law faculty since they have decided to establish the Law Clinic. He said, “Since you have established the Law Clinic, you need to go out to tell people the need to know their rights. I will expect your clinic to defend the people and your university environment, don’t confine yourself to the Faculty of Law and you need to learn about political economy of the country as well.”
Dipo Opeseyi, SAN, said the students must be rich in learning and also learn about ethical standards known with legal practice, which he said will help them excel in future as lawyers.
Others represented at the event included the representatives of the Prisons, the State Office of the Public Defender, OPD, Nigeria Legal Aid Council. All of them agreed and spoke in unison that except something radical is urgently done, the country is sitting on gun powder in the area of confidence the people have on the nation’s justice system.