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OPERATIVE LEGAL AID: AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF ACCESS TO JUSTICE Part: 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BANKOLE CLIFFORD EKUNDAYO MORGAN, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE.   
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 21:28

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely those of the author)

In every state, the justice system can be properly evaluated based on the manner in which the poor and vulnerable people do access justice. Effective administration of justice is the cornerstone of good governance, rule of law and human rights.  The enjoyment of the right to access to justice and the dispensation of justice in any state must not stand on political influence or affluent. It is prejudicialto discriminate against the poor and vulnerable persons wanting to access justice.

The justice system of any state must not be operating in a way that the poor and vulnerable are discriminated against due to their inability to hire the services of legal practitioners.  The right to access to justice essentially is one of the fundamental human rights. In my view, Justice surpasses the boundaries of a single legal system. In actual fact, Justice is a virtue and in essence, it is more than a sector and even more than a power. The right to access to justice is one of the most important human rights and it is conceived as both a means and an end to justice.

LEGAL AID SYSTEM

Establishing a legal Aid system in any state is one way by which the government can provide for the poor and vulnerable people to enable them have access to justice. Legal aid is a medium by which the poor and vulnerable people in society will enjoy the right to access to justice without any limitation.  It is obvious that without an effective and or operative legal system, the poor and vulnerable people will continue to wallow in despair by facing huge challenges in accessing justice.  Access to justice is a human right which ought to be protected by law and guaranteed by the state. When a state fails to create the enabling environment for the promotion and protection of fundamentalhuman rights, those rights will definitely become meaningless.  The fact is access to justice is a germane component of the Rule of Law.

 

ACCESS TO JUSTICE CAN BE PERCEIVED AS A MEANS AND AN END TO JUSTICE

Access to justice can be perceived as both a means and an end to justice. It is a means as it concerns the efficient method of enabling users of justice system to benefit from the end product of justice. Likewise, it can be perceived as an end, in the protection of an individual’s right to justice through ease of access when the need arises. The lack of access to justice and or the unfair dispensation of justice in any state will ultimately undermine the tenets of good governance, rule of law and human rights.

THE POPULARLY KNOWN PHRASE “RULE OF LAW”

The popularly known phrase “Rule of Law” is frequently used but little explained or understood that no one is above the law. The term ‘rule of law’ can be interpreted as the restriction of arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established rules or guidelines. Effective legal aid has undoubtedly been deemed one of the most important aspects of access to justice. The fight in the promotion and protection of the right to access to justice must not be hindered by anyone. This means public officials, rule of law and development advocates are therefore energized to implement new strategies to ensure that the right to access to justice is constructively promoted and protected. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that this very important Rule of Law guarantee is not sacrificed due to other factors like unavailability of funds.

FINANCING AN EFFECTIVE LEGAL AID SHOULD BE OF PRIORITY TO GOVERNMENT

The plain truth is that for a Legal Aid scheme to function effectively, government must in the first place aware of the fact thatthere are huge number ofmembers of the public likethe poor and vulnerable ones who are suffering in accessing justice. Secondly, government must have passion for these people, and thirdly, government must be committed in providing consistent and adequate funding to the Legal Aid Board. It is an established fact that operative legal aid has undoubtedly been deemed the most important aspect of access to justice. In developing and developed countries, financing of an effective legal aid program is of priority to governments.A central reasoning is that the extent to which legality is valued, facilitated and guaranteed by the treatment of the necessary components is a determinant of whether the said components work to make legal aid systems effective.

LEGAL AID SYSTEM OUGHT TO BE SUSTAINABLE AND DEMAND-ORIENTED

The point is made that effectiveness of law, being a cognitive institution, requires that the legal aid system is sustainable and demand-oriented, being targeted at the needs of the most needy “rights-holders” and constantly being monitored and evaluated, albeit avoiding bureaucracy. The legal aid service should be comparable to paid legal services and be aimed at client-satisfaction or high clients’ approval. Where possible, it should facilitate diversion from litigation to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), to save the poor and vulnerable people from the challenges faced in courts and the strain on public funds.A few examples of the kinds of cases which have traditionally qualified for legal aid include: when someone with dementia is facing eviction and cannot fight the case against their local authority by themselves; when a victim of domestic violence needs to ensure safety for themselves (and in many cases also their children); and when someone has been accused of committing a crime.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT

Access to justice as a fundamental human right and it can be render meaningless if government does not create the enabling environment for the poor and the vulnerable ones to enjoy it without any discrimination. Legal aid is essential to guaranteeing equal access to justice for the poor and the vulnerable people in society.Normally, laws have been known to exist and the essence for that is to regulate human behaviour. Law regulates society and sets standards by which the rights of every individual or creature, their person or property are respected promoted and protected. Sierra Leone as a state is a member of the world community and being such must be governed by certain rules which ensure that society operate regularly like other members of the global community. From that we observe that the law itself forms a social instrument which acts as a lubricating oil for the effectiveness of society. Therefore, an effective and operative legal aid system is an important aspect of access to justice.Conclusively,establishing a legal Aid system in any state is one way by which the government can provide for the poor and vulnerable people to enable them have access to justice

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

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Business News

ACC URGES EDSA BO TO TACKLE BRIBERY AND PETTY CORRUPTION

“Electricity is an essential commodity. Operations of Government offices and private enterprises hinge on the availability of electricity. And in the homes, every single Sierra Leonean will like to enjoy electricity service; therefore, we cannot afford to tolerate petty corruption and bribery in the energy sector,” ACC Southern Regional Manager told staff of Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) at a general meeting at EDSA conference room.

Samuel Marah said EDSA staff have to brace up for the job and conduct themselves in line with best practice. He said meters, poles and cables, ladders, pliers, and computers do not involve in malpractices by themselves, but it is the individuals who use them as they interact with the gullible public. The public most times is unable to identify EDSA staff from non EDSA staff.

He said EDSA in Bo must implement measures already designed to tackle petty corruption and bribery happening in the sector. May 2017 PNB complaints report indicated bribes paid for meter replacement, new connection, reconnection, bill reduction and avoiding disconnection. These hotspots continue to feature repeatedly in the report and it is about time actions are taken. Erection of service charter indicating costs for services can be a huge measure to curbing petty corruption.

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Media News

44 Journalists in Beijing for China Development Studies and Media Exchange

The 4th session of the China Africa Press Center (CAPC) Program hosted by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) was officially launched on Wednesday 1st March 2017 in Beijing, China. This year’s event is running simultaneously with the China South Asia Center 2017 program. Both programs brought together forty-four journalists from Africa and South Asia.

The program you will give journalists the opportunity to cover major domestic and international events in China such as the upcoming Two Sessions, i.e, the 5th Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) and the 5th Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese

People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) (similar to Parliamentary sessions in many countries) in March, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May and the 9th BRICS Summit in Autumn this year.

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Commentary

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT

A PASSIONATE LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT:  44TH EDITION

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT
 Your Excellency Sir,
 It’s been six months since I subscribed to my usual publications of this piece. And this is primarily because I have been out of the country for the entire period, and as such would not normally objectively tender a subscription. I do apologize to my readers for this. So having being in Monrovia, Liberia for the recently concluded ECOWAS Summit, I would like to do some analysis on such a historic august body and gathering of this sub-Saharan/West African region.
 
In resume, among other crucial achievements, ECOWAS, through its military apparatus, ECOMOG, played very sacrificial and invaluable roles in bringing peace, security and democratic governance to both Sierra Leone and Liberia during their past civil wars, and most recently ensuring that the Gambian people’s democratic change of government from the notorious dictatorial twenty seven years regime of Yaya Jarmeh, to the current government of President Adama Barrow, through their tactical robust intervention, overseen by President Helen JohnsonSirleaf of Liberia and other ECOWAS Presidents/actors, was enforced. Furthermore, ECOWAS has also spearheaded the enactment of several socio-political, advocacy and economic treaties in the sub region.
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View Point

WHY SIERRA LEONEANS HATE PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT

Honestly speaking Sierra Leoneans are well known for their hospitality all over the world, especially in Africa. But ironically many of them hate each other. But they love foreigners. They have high respect for strangers. But unfortunately they do not have respect among themselves. You can attest this to what is happening in the social media. Where they are showing their pull him down (PhD) syndrome. By castigating their compatriots unnecessarily. Some of them just because of jealousy and envious evil spirit they possess. They prefer to promote foreigners than their own brothers and sisters both in and out of the country.

Day in day out they are insulting each other.They are using all sorts of vulgar languages against each other. And even their own highly respected president in the world, President Ernest Bai Koroma they are insulting him openly. Therefore, it is an open secret that many Sierra Leoneans are not well cultured.

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Maria E. Brewer of Indiana has been nominated to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Sierra Leone.   U.S. Ambassador John Hoover departs Sierra Leone in early July 2017.  Ms. Brewer will take up her new position pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Ms. Brewer, a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service and class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1996.  She is currently the Deputy Director of the Career Development and Assignments Division of the Bureau of Human Resources at the Department of State. 

Ms. Brewer served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria from 2013 to 2016.  Previously she served as Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of African Affairs, Management Officer in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Management Officer in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

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Society -Local News

PORT LOKO UNIVERSITY COLLEGE JOINS THE ANTI-GRAFT CRUSADE

Staff and students of the Port Loko University College, a constituent college of the Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology, pledged to support the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in fighting graft in the country. This commitment was made during a special talk delivered by the ACC Regional Manager North, Abu Bakarr Kamara on Wednesday, 21st June, 2017.

Delivering his address to a jam-packed audience in the college's auditorium, Mr. Kamara explained to staff and students the various approaches ACC employs in combating graft in the country. He went on to explain the key features of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008, as amended, cataloguing the various corruption offences contained therein.

The Regional Manager reminded students that as teachers in training they should imbibe good moral values; among which are high levels of integrity and commitment in their career as teachers, describing them as agents of change in the country's socio-economic development. "Corruption in the education system is one of the most potent form of corruption that leaves an indelible negative imprint on the psyche of the pupils you are going to teach", the Regional Manager noted.

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ACC PARNERS WITH CSOs IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION IN BO

Media Foundation for Development Sierra Leone has joined the fight against corruption in Bo, Southern Sierra Leone. It comes following days of heightened Pay No Bribe (PNB) public campaigns organized by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

ACC Manager South, Samuel Marah, said the Commission looks forward to receiving more civil society organizations with shared interest in addressing corruption which affects the lives of bulk of Sierra Leoneans. He said the task is huge and requires support from CSOs who directly work in the interest of the public.

The 2014-18 National Anti-Corruption Strategy stresses the importance of partnership and collaboration in tackling graft. Since CSOs are central to the governance of the state in initiating and designing development programmes that address poverty and under-development, partnership with them places the Commission at a vantage position in tackling mis-procurement, misappropriation of public funds, and bribery.

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Politics

Vice President Foh launches One Health Platform

Vice President, Dr. Victor Bockarie Foh has officially launched the One Health Platform, an innovative, proactive to prevent, detect and respond to future disease outbreak in Sierra Leone past Friday June 23, 2017 at the Miatta Conference Centre, Brookfields in Freetown.

Delivering his keynote address, Vice President Dr. Victor Foh described the ceremony as an history making event of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, recalling the launch of the maternal and child health week in June this year.

He said by the launch of the One Health Platform, Sierra Leone is taking another giant step towards achieving its health care delivery system, pointing out that by this step, they would be able to identify, diagnose and prevent, and cure diseases that are transmitted from animals to human beings.

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