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THE DEVELOPMENT OF CLINICAL LEGAL EDUCATION

Ernest Ojukwu; President NULAI Nigeria at the 1st Clinical Legal Education Colloquium 12th-14th February, 2004, Abuja.                                                                                   Participants at Clinical Legal Education Colloquium

 

Clinical Legal Education is a learning method which is focused on enabling students to understand how the law works in action. It is essentially a multidisciplinary and multipurpose type of legal education which seeks to develop the skills and competencies needed to strengthen the legal system, providing opportunities for learning social justice concepts. It serves as a link between the law and social justice issues. Clinical Legal Education bridges the gap between theory and practice. The experiential nature of clinical courses brings abstract notions of justice to life. A product of Clinical Legal Education would be able to contribute to national development and social change in a much more constructive manner.

 

Prior to the emergence of Clinical Legal Education in Nigeria, the legal education curriculum had been very rigid and confined to theoretical methods of teaching. This theoretical approach in the universities did not present law students the platform for developing practical skills which caused them to be ignorance of the professional skills that are important to the profession. These skills include, research skills, communication skills, interviewing of clients and witnesses, counseling, drafting, negotiating and problem solving skills.

 

There was also the absence of teaching methods on how to build rapport with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, which is evidenced in the Clinical Legal Education, through the rendering of pro bono services to the local communities by law clinics. This in so many ways has integrated in the students not just good communication skills with people from diverse backgrounds, but also social justice consciousness.

 

Network of University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) Nigeria in its bid to improve legal education and legal capacity in Nigeria had developed and institutionalized Clinical Legal Education. This feat was achieved through the undertaking of expository and intellectual seminars and workshops which yielded tremendous results. Among these events undertaken by NULAI are: the 1st Nigerian Clinical Legal Education colloquium on the 12th -14th February 2004 at Abuja. The participants included 22 Law Faculties and the Nigerian Law School, the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Council of Legal Education, the National Universities Commission, the Legal Aid Council, non-governmental organizations involved in the delivery of legal aid in Nigeria, and print the and electronic media. The overall objective of this colloquium was the integration of Clinical Legal Education into the Nigerian Legal Education.

 

NULAI Nigeria also participated in the 1st African Clinical Legal Education teacher training at Durban South Africa 4th-9th October, 2004 with 4 Nigerian teachers trained, and also at the 2nd African Clinical Legal Education Teacher Training, Durban South Africa 20 -24 November, 2006 where 8 Nigerian Law teachers were trained on Street Law and Trial Advocacy.

 

NULAI Nigeria in collaboration with Open Society Justice Initiative and with assistance from the University of Kwa –Zulu Natal, Durban South Africa organized the 1st Nigerian clinical legal education teacher training workshop, 2nd-5th February, 2005. In attendance were 16 Law Teachers from 14 Law Faculties in Nigerian Universities and the Nigerian Law School, as well as representatives from Open Society Justice Initiative, Legal Aid Council, and representatives from University of Kwa Zulu- Natal. The teacher training focused on the teaching methodology of Clinical Legal Education. Resource materials and books on clinical legal education were given to the participants to assist them in teaching the various subjects under the Clinical Legal Education programme.

 

In January 2006, to promote a standard for clinical legal education curriculum for Nigerian universities law clinics, and NULAI Nigeria constituted a Clinical Legal Education Curriculum Development Committee with members drawn from NULAI and University Law clinics. The Committee embarked on a study tour to the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Law Clinic and the University of Johannesburg Law Clinic from the 29th January - 3rd February, 2006. Committee members also facilitated a Curriculum Development Workshop leading to the publication of Clinical Legal Education during this period.

 

NULAI also organized the 1st Nigerian Client Interviewing and Counseling Skills Competition, which was held at Maiduguri in Borno State of Nigeria, on the 17th-18th February 2006.

 

The summary of the report of the Council of Legal Education Committee on the Review of Legal Education in Nigeria submitted on 29th July 2004 was to the effect that law faculties and the Nigerian Law School should “as a matter of urgency” introduce clinical legal education and that “the faculties are required to provide appropriate facilities, such as clinical consultation rooms” and that “for purposes of achieving interactive teaching, proper training will have to be given to lecturers at the various law faculties and the Nigerian Law School….” NULAI also participated in the stakeholders meeting on the Nigerian draft Legal Aid Bill to fine-tune the draft bill which has provisions for supporting legal clinics in the universities. Consequently, in 2011, the Legal Aid Act by its Section 17 recognizes law clinics as legal aid providers.

 

Due to the advocacy efforts of NULAI Nigeria on the subject of integration of Clinical Legal Education into the Nigerian Legal Education, the National Universities Commission’s draft benchmarks and minimum academic standards in the law programme released in August 2004 has identified cognitive and skills competencies as a learning outcome and also introduced “a community based course: community legal assistance to the poor, minority and the under privileged” in the 4th year class. Benchmark was reviewed in 2010/2011 CLE Curriculum compulsory for new faculties to have law clinic.

 

From 2005-2014, NULAI Nigeria has seen to the establishment of 17 Law Clinics in Nigerian Universities and the Nigerian Law School. These law clinics are spread over the six geo-political zones of the country, See Map


 

LAW CLINICS AND PRETRIAL DETAINEES

 

         

 

Law Clinic is a law office in a university managed by law students in the discharge of pro bono or voluntary services, and pretrial detainee is a person detained in the prison by the state for an offence committed against the laws of the state prior to or pending trial.

 

The problems being experienced by pretrial detainees is as a result of the facts that their rights are being denied or infringed. A right is a person's legal or social entitlement. The rights of pretrial detainees are recognized under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and they include, the right to remain silent; the right to remain silent the right to counsel; the right to bail; the right to be detained under humane conditions and the right to prompt trial.
The denial of these rights is contributed from inadequate police investigations; delay of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) advice, holding charges and unnecessary adjournments of cases. Many of the pretrial detainees primarily ;lack adequate knowledge of their rights, for example, some who do not have counsel, never think they have a right to counsel, and therefore are resigned to a state of helplessness.

 

It was the need to bridge this gap that led to a project for development of pretrial detainee Clinics in 2012 with 6 pilot clinics by Network of University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) Nigeria with the support of Open Society Foundations. In conjunction with Justice for All, and the Department for International Development (DFID) in 2014, the Pretrial detainee Clinic project escalated to 12 law clinics under the project tagged “Improving Access to Justice for Pretrial Detainees in Nigeria”. During this project, law clinics in Nigeria proved to be of great help in the speeding up access to justice for pretrial detainees. They achieved this by going to the prisons to interview and counsel pretrial detainees, facilitating the application and perfection of their bail, advocacy visits to the Chief Judge and Director of Public Prosecutions, jail delivery exercise with Chief Judges, and even re-establishing contact between prisoners and their lost or estranged family members. This project, aside from the fact that it facilitated access to justice to pretrial detainees, and facilitated access to justice to pretrial detainees, also helped law students to be better lawyers. Many of them are now more inclined to render pro bono services to the underserved and poor members of the society.

 

In 2014 Law Clinics were able to facilitate access to justice for 1043 pretrial detainees from 19 prisons. Notably amongst others: 68 regained their freedom through bail, 126 ATPs cases were disposed of through acquittals, convictions and cases struck out for want of diligent prosecution and law clinics continue to represent in some cases which are still in court.

 

This was achieved through; Law Clinic Supervisors representing 371 detainees on pro-bono basis, 183 detainees cases referred to Legal Aid Council and Pro-bono Lawyers which is exclusive to that handled by Law Clinics Supervisors on pro-bono basis, 386 detainees relatives were contacted on behalf of the detainees, 33 detainees were advocated for under prerogative of mercy with State Chief Judges, advocacy visits resulted in interventions at the Ministries of Justice and the Department of Public Prosecution.

 

Notable among the pretrial detainee cases handled by law clinics were: C. Ojo who suffered mentally disability was charged for Unlawful Assault resulting in Injury. She had no legal representation, was denied fair hearing, prompt trial, medical services and had been on pretrial detention for six months under inhumane conditions. Also she had lost contact with her family members. She was discovered during the prison visit by Akungba Law Clinic, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba- Akoko, Ondo State. The law clinic promptly carried out an investigation into her background, and got her family information. Her family members were contacted and re-connected to her. She was provided with a counsel, thereafter released from detention, and then taken to Federal Medical Center, Owo in Ondo State for admission for the treatment of her mental disability.

 

On the 3rd of March 2014, the University of Abuja, Law Clinic successfully secured the release of 36 awaiting trial detainees, who had little or no hope of accessing justice and getting released from the confines of the Kuje Prison in Abuja, Nigeria. These prisoners charged for public nuisance had no legal representation, no prosecutor, faced with baseless accusations and no proper investigation. If not for the intervention of the Law Clinic, these detainees would have been forgotten in the Kuje Prison. They were arrested for sleeping in uncompleted buildings as a result of their homelessness. Their means of livelihood were menial jobs like hawking, shoe repairs and scavenging waste bins. Obviously, a water hawker who makes an average of N400 daily would scarcely afford a decent meal, let alone any form of shelter. Although they were granted bail for a sum each (not less than N5, 000) and were told to provide a surety who is a civil servant or who owns a landed property in Abuja. It beats one’s understanding how a person with no roof over his head, and no form of savings would manage to get a surety with a landed property in Abuja. This also shows that criminalization of poverty is an access to justice issue.

 

O. O. Christian arrested and detained on behalf of his cousin for stealing laptop and phone, was detained for 1 year and 9 months. He was arraigned on the 11th September 2012 at the Afikpo Magistrate Court which declined jurisdiction and remanded him in prison. He had been awaiting trial since then. But through the efforts of Ebonyi State University Law Clinic, he was released from detention.

 

M. Patrick, charged with Public Nuisance, though had already served his 24 days sentence, but was still in detention because he could not pay the fine of N4,000. He was released through the efforts of Nassarawa State University Law Clinic after the payment of the fine by the Law Clinic. On June 30th, 2014, Law Clinicians of the NassarawaState University, Nigeria secured the discharge of Yohana Y. from prison after 7 months in pprison for stealing 2 mudus (a 5 diameter bowl measurement) of Rice and a bottle of palm oil. This pretrial detainee had not been to court since 23rd December, 2013. The Law Clinic also did reunite him with his wife in Bauchi State who never knew where her husband was since the date of his arrest.

 

On the 25th June 2014, the Abia State University Law Clinic Team attended the Jail Delivery exercise of the Chief Judge of Abia State, Hon. Justice Oti at Afara-Umuahia Prisons. The Clinic presented its clients for consideration and nine (9) of the Clinic's clients were among those who benefited from the Jail Delivery exercise. The notable cases among them were: Mr. John B., aged 25yrs- remanded since 2006 was granted bail by the Chief Judge; Okafor N., 28years and Ihendu O., 48yrs both remanded since 2006 and 2007 respectively, were released because no Information had been filed against them by the Director of Public Prosecution.

 

The problem of delay in access to justice in Nigeria is one of the agonizing issues that have continued to confront the nation’s criminal justice system and those who come in contact with the law. The causes of this problem are: lack of access to legal representation, inefficient transportation for court sittings, and heavy judicial workload. It is evident from the prisons data (awaiting trial detainees constitute over 70% of the estimated 54,156 prisoners' population in the 235 prisons across the country) that serious reform is required for a better administration of justice, as the percentage of prisoners awaiting trial is high. Hence, there should be a continuation of the project (Improving Access to Justice for Pretrial Detainees in Nigeria) executed by NULAI, and also an urgent reform of the Judiciary which must prioritize provision of legal assistance for criminal suspects within 48 hours of arrest, so as to salvage the problems of pretrial detainees thereby reducing prolong period of pretrial detention and ultimately decongestion of Nigerian prisons.

 

   

 

Precept taken from;

NULAI 2014 Pretrial Final Report

Prison Pretrial Detainee Law Clinics

Abia State University (ABSU) & Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Law Clinics Facilitates the Freedom of 11 Pre-Trial Detainees During Jail Delivery Exercise

On 25 June 2014, the ABSU Law Clinic Team led by Staff Clinician Barr. Emeka Okorafor attended the Afara-Umuahia Prisons for the Jail Delivery exercise of the Chief Judge of Abia State, Hon. Justice Oti. The Clinic presented its clients for consideration and nine (9) of the Clinic's clients  were among those who benefited from the Jail Delivery exercise. Notable cases included: Mr. John B., aged 25yrs- remanded since 2006 was granted bail by the Chief Judge; Ihendu O., 48yrs and Okafor N., 28years both remanded since 2007 and 2006 respectively, were released because no information had been filed against them by the Director of Public Prosecution. 

 

The ABU Law Clinic also participated in Zaria Prison decongestion exercise with Hon. Justice Garba Abdu of the Kaduna State High Court and facilitated the release of two awaiting trial detainees: Yunusa H and Shamsu I. After the exercise, Clinicians had an interactive session with the Honourable Judge.

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The essence of Client’s Interview and Counselling

 
The aim of Client’s Interview and Consultation Skills is to make a lawyer adept in;
 listening skills,
 advising skills,
 communication skills,
 analytical skills,
 questioning skills, and also
 these skills have also been fundamental in promoting access to justice for the poor and public interest lawyering in Nigeria.
This essence cannot be over-emphasized. This is evident in the case of an attorney who though is quite knowledgeable in the substantive law, but far less effective and skillful with people. The skills of a successful lawyer lay in the mastery of human interaction and in the subtle awareness of the emotions, concerns and anxieties of others as well as in the knowledge of how to utilize that awareness to advance the attorney's professional aims in the interaction.
One of the lawyer's functions is to guide a client into safer and better courses of conduct. The lawyer-client relationship with all its human and conceptual content must be employed, taught and learned. The lawyer-client decisional and behavioral characteristics must be central.
It is glaring that the intense rationalism of law school training lacks a sense of how legal problems must be solved by those that have them or face them and just what this means to the practicing lawyer. For most lawyers and law students, the strict legal side, the book and research thing is fairly easy, but what is harder is to know how to use the results of that work effectively with people and how to handle oneself in any given situation.
So, the essence of Client's Interview and Counseling Skills breeds lawyers who have mastered the human arts of lawyering and these lawyers are excellent practitioners intuitively exercising psychological skills of a high order: they know how to listen, how to persuade, how to meet emotional and psychological needs of clients, opponents, judges, and even everyone they dealt with emotionally. This mean the Client's Interview and Counseling Skills have highly developed abilities of awareness and objectivity.
What can you say is your experience in Client's interview and Counseling?Precepts taken from
Gary S. Goodpaster, THE HUMAN ARTS OF LAWYERING: INTERVIEWING AND COUNSELING
www.jstor.org/stable/42892277?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Prof. Louis M. Brown, A Personal & Historical Introduction
www.brownmosten.com/pages/Personal%20%20...L%20M%20%20Brown.pdf
 

PRESS RELEASE FOI REQUEST: CSO FLOORS EFCC

By: Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC)  

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja granted an order of mandamus compelling the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC to explain why it must not release the information requested by a Civil Society Coalition under the Freedom of Information Act. Federal High Court 2, Abuja, presided over by Justice Kasarati granted the leave as sought by the plaintiff- Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC to issue an order of mandamus against the anti-corruption Agency.

 

A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC to Court over its refusal to respond to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act. The matter filed in Federal High Court, Abuja, with Suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/265/13 between the Incorporated Trustees of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption as plaintiff and the Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC-defendant, prays the Court to compel the defendant to make available the information sought by the Plaintiff in accordance with section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

 

The matter seeks four reliefs, among which is “a declaration by the Court that the denial of assess by the respondents to make available to the applicant the information sought, without explanation amounts to a violation of the applicant’s right to information enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act 2011, section 4”

 

MIIVOC had through a letter dated 27th January, 2014, invoked the Freedom of information act via a request for information bothering on credibility, finances and Police presence in the Commission, a copy of which he displayed. Other requests are: Details of support and funding from the international community in 2013, especially, funds from: GIABA/ECOWAS and World Bank; Details of EFCC officials trained by international agencies in 2013 and how much was saved in the budget of EFCC because of this support and the actual financial statement of the Commission, as at December 31st, 2013.

 

Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) is a coalition of communication, civil society and human rights activists and groups with interest in the war against injustice, Violence, immorality and corruption, as well as the protection of human rights, from a communication perspective. It is believed to be working with a coalition of over twenty different non-governmental Organisations in the Project.

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