Today I have the honour of publishing the trailblazing efforts of the ABSU Law Clinic, of the Faculty of Law, Abia State University , Uturu in the practical study of law and their giant strides in Social Work. The experience is shared by Noble Chinwendu, Deputy Head of the ABSU Law Clinic. Hope you are inspired after reading this.
ABSU Law Clinic; Who we are!
The ABSU Law Clinic was established by the Network of Universities Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) in 2004, as an in-house clinic of the Faculty of Law, Abia State University, Uturu. It provides legal services to indigent members of the public.
The purpose of the ABSU Law Clinic like other law clinics in Nigeria is captured in the quote of the NULAI President Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN as follows;
“The establishment of Law Clinics in Nigeria and Clinical Legal Education program was undertaken by the Network of University Legal Aid Institution (NULAI Nigeria) in realization of the need to provide law students with the requisite practical skills and competences to apply the legal principles learnt from the traditional academic curriculum, correctly and with confidence”.
ABSU Law Clinic; Activities
The student-clinicians usually offer free legal services like periodic prison visits. During such visits, interviews are conducted to identify indigent pretrial and vulnerable detainees with a view to processing their bail applications.
Deserving cases are usually referred to Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) etc, to avail the detainees of free legal representation offered by those agencies.
In addition, the student-clinicians engage in periodic community campaign against human rights abuses and street law sensitization in selected secondary schools. Legal pamphlet and materials are distributed free of charge during such sensitization activities.
The Law Clinic functions like a law firm with its but with less rigidity as students are allowed more independence. This also exposes them to the modus of a contemporary law office, handling heavy workload and learning team work while working within a chain of command.
The student-clinicians render other legal services like client consultation/counselling, case analysis, legal assistance, research, mediation/conciliation, drafting, report writing, managing client’s files, community/street law sensitization and public speaking in legal workshops etc.
ABSU Law Clinic; Achievements
Our activities at the ABSU Law Clinic are geared towards supplementing the existing legal aid in our criminal justice system. In that light, we have contributed towards resolving the issue of prison congestion as well as the problem of holding juveniles in the same prison facility with adult criminals.
We have the capacity to attend to more cases deserving immediate attention than regular legal aid schemes. Through our activities also, students learn the practical skills needed to excel in the legal profession as against plain theories taught in classes.
During one of the workshops organized by the faculty, I felt confident to say this about myself;
“… I developed advocacy, drafting, research and case analysis skills. I also developed love for human rights during this process, interviewing/counseling, ICT and file management skills’.
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Alex Nwankwo aptly captures the impact of clinic activities on the future career prospects of students as follows;
“The clinic constructively transforms the student-clinician into a lawyer gives him the opportunity to act as such before he is called to the Nigerian bar; this makes him fairly as skillful as any practicing lawyer”.
Furthermore, in the Clinic students imbibe the ethics and culture of community service, activism and public service geared towards meeting the prevailing legal and social needs of the society.
ABSU Law Clinic; Structure
Absu law clinic is manned by 25 law students of 500 Level and 25 law students of 400 Level with a lecturer as a Clinic Coordinator, and other lecturers as staff clinicians. The clinic is divided into several departments with a Clinic Head/Deputy and 6 Heads of Departments. The departments are;
- File Management
- Prison Services (Umuahia and Okigwe)
- Street Law
- Office Management.
The clinic official hours are 8 am to 4 pm from Monday to Friday.
ABSU Law Clinic; Laurels &Trophies
The ABSU Law Clinic has won several NULAI national competitions and has represented Nigeria thrice at the world stage in Hong Kong, Hawaii, USA and the Republic of Ireland, respectively.
Through its prison service department the clinic has achieved the release of a total of 54 pre trial detainees, and also through its street law sensitization program, the Clinic has successfully organized legal workshops/seminars for rural communities and selected schools.
In a society struggling to maintain its balance, this is our own way of lending a helping hand.
Author’s Profile: Noble Chinwendu is the Deputy Head Clinician ABSU Lawclinic, he also doubles as the Head of Department Umuahia Prisons in the Clinic where he led his team to achieve the release of 12 pretrial detainees within a space of a semester. He is a seasoned scholar, a great writer, highly intuitive and inquisitive.
He was once Director of Litigations in Ernest Ojukwu Law Chambers in the Faculty. Presently, a serving judge in the Faculty’s High Court. He has represented the faculty in several competitions. At his leisure, he enjoys watching soccer and playing video games. He could be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.