A HISTORICAL PROFILE OF THE LEGAL AID COUNCIL OF NIGERIA
The concept of Legal aid in Nigeria can be said to have been birthed in 1961 when Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, the Chief Justice of Nigeria at the time, during the African Conference on the Rule of Law held in Lagos, pointed out the hollowness of a constitutional right to a fair hearing, if the financial aspect of access was ignored. That statement was the first official public acknowledgement of the need and desirability for legal aid in Nigeria.
This led to a Bill prepared by the then Honourable Attorney-General, Dr. T.O. Elias, entitled Legal Aid and Advice Act 1961 for Parliament, in order to formally establish legal aid in Nigeria. The Bill sought to make provision for the establishment and operation of a scheme for the granting in proper cases, legal aid and legal advice, to people with low income, who could not otherwise afford to procure them for the enforcement or vindication of a legitimate right or for obtaining a just relief. Unfortunately, due to the Nigerian Civil War the Bill did not see the light of day.
This effort later gave rise to the birth of the Nigerian Legal Aid Association. The Association was made up of legal luminaries who took it upon themselves to champion the cause of providing legal aid for poor Nigerians. The Association was inaugurated on February 6th 1974. One week after the inauguration saw the launching of the East Central State Branch of the Association in Enugu. Thereafter, Branches were also launched in Lagos, Plateau, Oyo and Cross River States.
The initiator of the Association was Chief Chimezie Ikeazor SAN, other members were Chief Debo Akande SAN who was the Director of Operations of the Organization, Chief (Dr) Solomon Lar C.O.N. was the Secretary General of the body. Other active members of the association include Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke. Chief Adebayo Ogunsanya, the then President of the Nigerian Bar Association was one of the national patrons.
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