- These lawyers at the LG Legal Departments would supervise and even undertake prosecutorial activities in magistrate courts, and represent the respective LG’s in area courts, Magistrates courts, High Courts, etc.
- They’d be on hand to render necessary legal advisory services to their local governments.
- The Legal department at the LG level could become in charge of advising on issues relating to issuance of Customary Right of Occupancy at the LG level, thereby playing similar roles as the Ministries of Justice and lands play at the state level.
- The legal departments at the LG level could take steps to set up (citizens) mediation Centers at the local government level, as well as explore other legal advisory or legal aid services aimed to help the local community or make justice more affordable and easily accessible by local inhabitants.
- The pressure of having all the lawyers striving to settle down only in the major cities such as Lagos, PortHarcourt, Kano, Onitsha, Aba, Ibadan, Jos, Abuja, Enugu City, Uyo, Warri, Calabar, Kaduna City, etc would disappear since lawyers employed by the various local governments would have to relocate to the local council headquarters where they’d live and operate from, with their families.
- Lawyers and Legal services would move closer to the people at the grass-root, since residents of local communities would no longer need to travel to major cities to get the services of lawyers that would draft their various agreements, contrasts, or to render some legal advice.
- Such a Department is staffed by legal practitioners, who apart from playing other equally important roles and attending to the legal needs of the Local Government Council, would assist also in prosecution of some cases, especially in courts located within the local council areas.
- Gradually, from among these lawyers who are LG Legal officers, some Magistrates or even judges are appointed, just as is done at the state level.
- This would provide huge amount of jobs for lawyers at the grass-root. Imagine, if all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria create and have legal departments, and each local government (depending on capacity) employs an average of 10-20 lawyers in its legal department, we’d have at least 7,740 —15,480 lawyers or much more immediately gainfully employed at the local government level.
- This initiative would redress the existing inequity and unfairness at the Local government level. The following departments already exist in all the LGA’s in Nigeria: Education, Health, Agriculture, Finance, Information, and Works. It’s gross marginalization against the legal profession that there’s not yet a legal department in all LGA’s Nigeria. This needs to be be urgently corrected.
STAKEHOLDERS TO MAKE THIS ALL-IMPORTANT PROJECT A REALITY
- The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at both the National and Branches levels : NBA has the responsibility to set the ball rolling. If NBA does nothing, nothing happens. Dear NBA, over to you.
- The AG Federation;
- The Attorneys-General of the various states.
- The CJN;
- The PCA;
- The CJ of the FHC;
- The CJ of the SHC in each state;
- The State House of Assembly of each state;
- The governors of the various states and the Nigerian Governors Forum.
- The BOSAN/BOB/Egbe AMOFIN/EBF/MWBF/MULAN/CLASFON/NACAL, etc.
WHAT DOES THIS TAKE AS A FIRST STEP?
It starts with an amendment to the Local Government Law of each State, to create a Legal Department in the state. This is long overdue. Provision of necessary logistics and support infrastructure would then follow.
SYLVESTER UDEMEZUE (udems)
(01 April 2021)