Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) has called on lawyers to stand up for the rights of the less privileged.
He spoke on ‘The Role of Religious Bodies in the Dispensation of Social Justice’ at the annual dinner of the Lagos Diocese of the National Association of Catholic Layers (NACL) last Friday.
Ajogwu highlighted scriptural injunctions to aid the less privileged, in this case prisoners, and observed that a legal practitioner, by virtue of his profession, is in a natural position to stand up for human rights.
He enjoined lawyers to take seriously the task of being their brother’s keepers, which is in line with the tenets of the Catholic faith, adding that Catholic lawyers are to regard their admission to the legal profession not just as a career, but also a vocation.
NACL President Geraldine Wey highlighted the role of faith in the lives of Nigerians.
She said: “One way or another, our faith is a fundamental feature of our lives as Nigerians. Now, how much this impacts positively on our relationship with our neighbour and loyalty to our nation is uncertain.
“Our role as Catholic lawyers demands that we operate in the arena of social justice and give voice particularly to the voiceless.”
Deputy Comptroller of the Women’s Prison, Kiri-Kiri, Mrs. Lizzy Ekpendu, called for societal change of mindset towards persons unfortunate to be in prison custody and requested more visits to the Women’s Prison.
She said: “The Keynote Address laid the foundation for the launch of the adopt-a-prisoner project of the association.
“By virtue of its calling, the National Association of Catholic Lawyers Lagos Archdiocese does much work in the Prisons and for this purpose has what is called the Prison Action/Pro Bono Committee.
“From time to time they call for contributions from their members and make formal visits to any of the five prisons in Lagos State stretching from Ikoyi to Badagry.
“The prison visits and intervention is two-fold, to take provisions to the inmates and to interview the indigent ones who have no legal representation, with a view to assisting them to litigate their matters Pro Bono.”
She observed that so far, the Prison Action/Pro Bono Committee and a few of their members have borne the expenses.
Ekpendu added: “The purpose of this project is to engage more volunteers and donors to contribute their resources in terms of legal services and financial support towards the association’s work in Prison Ministry.
“It is expected that via this project, a partnership between donors and volunteers will be created for the primary purpose of providing for the legal and material welfare of prison inmates in Lagos State thereby achieving a measure of decongestion in the prisons.”
A guest, Dr Egbert Imomoh, emphasised the need to engage stakeholders particularly the Office of the Attorney-General with a view to carrying out mass prison decongestion.
The Chairperson of the 2017 Dinner Planning Committee Ande Egbe, expressed hope that the guests both individual and corporate, would be moved to sponsor the project.
The event which held at the Sir Adetokunbo Ademola Hall at the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School, was reminiscent of the student days when would-be lawyers were required to eat mandatory dinners as a requirement for admission to the Bar.