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Requirement For Human Rights & Hapless Helpless Situation Of Victims Of Oppression

By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.


Where Lies The Challenges?

The roles and of course the requirement of a human rights activist cannot be over-emphasized, especially considering the usual oppressive conducts of some governments and individuals. These roles are in a way a form of Legal Aid. Legal Aid has been defined as the free legal services provided by the government through an attorney employed by the State. Free legal services (pro bono) provided by a private lawyer to an indigent is also legal aid. [See: page 41 of Legal Aid and Right to Justice, by Hanbal A. Muhammad Zubair (M. DRI)]

The Nigerian law recognizes the right of a legal practitioner to offer legal services to his clients without any remuneration. See section 9(2) of the Legal Practitioner Act, 2010-herein after referred to as LPA. Also Rule 52(1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007-herein referred to as RPC. Such free services may be rendered to indigent clients, friends, family members or clients with long standing relationship with the legal practitioner. Such free services may also be rendered by a legal practitioner in contentious and non-contentious matters. [See: A. Obi Okoye, Law in Practice in Nigeria: (Professional Responsibilities and Lawyering Skills), Snaap Press Ltd., 2011, second Edition, Enugu, at page 114]

Also, in carrying out all these legal aid services, a lawyer apart from his personal legal fees, requires some amounts of money to pursue such legal aid more so, even if the lawyer/activist is to render the services by sacrificing his own legal fees, there are some fees that cannot be sacrificed. That is why in a situation where the lawyer/activist is not paid any fees and the lawyer or the client or victim of oppression has no fees to offer to accomplish those fees that are unavoidable, then, such situation is in my view, hopeless, hapless and helpless, hence this paper.

Despite the socioeconomic challenges of lawyers in Nigeria, a number of persons whether indigent or not (including relatives or friends of lawyers rendering pro bono) would always expect to enjoy legal services without any pay. I emphasise, the word ‘without any pay’, to include paying any token for such legal services. I had submitted in one of my articles published on some media some time past, as follows:

‘It is therefore submitted without prejudice to other submissions made in this paper, that pro bono services does not only mean free legal services absolutely rather, a reduced fee is a pro bono, an absolutely free legal services is a pro bono, but charging based on agreement on transport allowances, document/ process filing allowances, service charge, etc. apart from the professional fees, do not constitute or form part of pro bono services envisages under the Rules and the extant laws. So, a legal practitioner is entitled to charge for them based on agreement with his client. The indigent clients, friends, family members or clients with long standing relationship with the legal practitioner etc. should take note of these.’[See: PRO BONO IN LEGAL SERVICES: THE PITIABLE MISCONCEPTIONS. By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.’]

Such lawyer is expected not to be paid any professional fees; and to use his personal money to do the cases brought to him and to just submit or remit all the benefits to the client whether with ‘thank you’ or no ‘thank you’! Even though such persons were to know that at least, some amount of money is needed to prosecute the case or take up the complaints, they shy away from their responsibilities.

The truth is that even where a client is not financially capable to pay the legal fees of a lawyer/activist, he would definitely be expected to pay those incidental expenses except there is a sponsorship of a third party who would sponsor such legal services or except that the lawyer would be financially buoyant to undertake the legal services without expecting any fees from his client.

Several times, I had offered several legal services to indigent and non-indigent clients without expecting any fees from them even to some communities and in public interests.

But as time goes on, I realized that those who have and or are capable of paying or their family are capable of paying, are refusing and or deceptive about their status and since the economic challenges of Nigeria has left only very slight opportunities for survival even as a young lawyer, no one even attempt to even recognize that I do something, so the situation really became uneasy for even me to survive free legal services without financial sponsorship, then, I decided to put a stop to rendering free legal services or taking any such case up anymore, even though, I am not happy with the decision!

That is why where a client or victim has no money to offer for legal services and there is no financial sponsorship from anywhere, then, such situation of the client or the indigent citizen becomes hapless and helpless! I pray that God Almighty would help us all out of these hard situations!

Furthermore, I decided to create a WhatsApp group to help giving legal aid to Nigerians of all categories (excluding lawyers) by establishing a Forum with the name ‘Pro bono Legal Mentorship Forum (LMF), with the link: https://chat.whatsapp.com/KP3U082KkyTKB6XaNvzT3o.

This is to be my continuous roles in legal services to humanity. And I enjoin members of the public to queue into this Forum to ask and lodge in their complaints and or legal questions free of charge. And any member of the public who are not lawyers can also send their contact phone number to me to be added to the Forum.

Finally, I am hopeful that government would provide financial supports to lawyers/activists who are eager and passionate about rendering pro bono legal services to indigent citizens or citizens of any situation and public interest matters and I am also hopeful that those who are capable of helping such causes of a human rights activist/lawyer would also do their best in helping out of the situations too, in order to help out of the hapless and helpless situations of the victims of oppression.

I also enjoin members of the public to queue into this Forum to ask and lodge in their complaints and or legal questions free of charge. And any member of the public who are not lawyers can also send their contact phone number to me through the below email address for them to be added to the Forum.

Email: hameed_ajibola@yahoo.com

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