The Director, Office of the Public Defender Lagos State ministry of Justice Mrs. O.O Salami has called on lawyers to embrace pro-bono service as a means of giving service to humanity.
Mrs. Salami was speaking during a stakeholders meeting between the OPD and its pro bono partners held at OPD Head Office Surulere Lagos.
The stakeholders meeting which involved private legal practitioners who have volunteered to partner with the OPD to render free legal services to indigent and vulnerable persons in the state.
In her opening address, Mrs Salami appreciated the gesture of the lawyers and assured that their willingness to assist will go a long way into easing the workload of the few lawyers in the center.
“It is with great pleasure and utmost thanks that I welcome you all to this gathering of friends and professional colleagues from various law firms. Our joy at OPD knows no limit. We are happy that your presence here today is not just a courtesy call but a demonstration of your commitment to the provision of pro bono legal services for the indigent and vulnerable residents of Lagos state.”
“We are grateful to see many law firms and lawyers who like the OPD are talking and are ready to take up this selfless tasks and on both hands at OPD, we are limited in numbers.”
Confirming that the resources at the Centre are limited and cannot adequately satisfy the ever increasing demand for legal assistance for the ever increasing population of Lagos state, the Director noted that the commitment of the few law firms is appreciated.
“There are about 50 counsel in OPD and our activities and functions cuts across criminal and civil matters.”
“OPD is versatile, we handle the cases of women and children, we go to police stations, prisons in Lagos.”
“Am sure you would agree with me that Lagos is cosmopolitan about 18 to 20m people residents of Lagos state and we are talking particularly and especially about the indigent and the vulnerable. By vulnerable we mean children and women and of course people that have one physical disability or the other”
Mrs. Salami reminded lawyers that embracing pro bono legal service should not be for the purpose of qualifying for the rank of SAN but an act of service to humanity.
“Apart from the fact that the NBA declared in 2009 and also in 2015 that private lawyers should take up pro bono cases, it is also a mandatory requirement for application for the revered position of SAN to take up prosecution of sufficient pro bono cases but we are hoping that we are not just doing this to obtain our silk at the end of the day, we are hoping that we are also doing this for humanity purposes.” she said.
High point of the meeting was the interactive sessions where lawyers were given opportunity to comment on the OPD activities, seek clarifications and ask questions.
Apart from giving the few registered pro bono law firms the opportunity to bond with the OPD, the meeting also afforded an opportunity for all parties to present some of the challenges being encountered by the pro bono lawyers.
At the end of the meeting, stakeholders resolved to approach the Chief Judge of Lagos State for a possible exemption on filing fees for pro bono cases.
The event ended with a photo session and a presentation of an award to Doyin Rhodes Vivour’s Law Firm which was adjudged the most outstanding pro bono Law Firm by OPD.