ABOUT THE LEGAL CLINIC
The Ahmadu Bello University, Faculty of Law Legal Clinic is the effort of a group of students whose passion is to provide community development services to people in and around the university community. Their particular mandate involves giving free legal advice and consultancy. The group is made up of Law Students from various levels, supported by Staff Advisers who are practising lawyers.
The group as it now exists was started by Elnathan John, a 500 level law student in the Faculty of Law who has led two successive sessions of the Legal Clinic. Barrister S. K. Musa, a practising lawyer of over twenty years, provides the group with the much needed practical support as the Staff Co-ordinator of the Clinical Legal Education unit in the Faculty.
This Clinic has received the full backing of the Faculty of Law which has endorsed and adopted the project.
LEGAL CLINIC 2007: OUR MEMOIRS
He who would do good to another, must do it in Minute Particulars: General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite & flatterer
William Blake, JERUSALEM.
Millions of humans, if not billions at one point or another in their tortuous existence think of doing good to people. They find themselves wishing that they could some thing or another to relieve a person’s suffering or improve the quality of a person’s life. They wish and that is all they do. Perhaps if the transcendental God were to judge them, they might just pass the test of goodness. Yet on earth, and for all practical purposes, it is only those who actually go out of their way to perform acts of graciousness and kindness that count as good men. Further it is only those whose goodness can be traced to some specific act who will bask in the timeless glory created by posterity.
We thought of good; we went out of our way to do good; we did good in minute particulars.
THE CLINIC PROPER
We began preparations for the clinic about mid- July. Since we already had a template from the last session to work with, we did not need to work from scratch; we knew what we wanted. It was important to find out who exactly would be beneficiaries of our free service. Not by coincidence, we chose three places in Zaria namely Zaria City, Sabon Gari and Samaru.
As usual we wrote to the Dean of the Faculty of Law to request permission to hold the clinic. We were given full cooperation by the Dean, who supplied us with a letter of introduction for those whom we would eventually be meeting. Then we set about the task of looking for venues in the respective localities. After initial bureaucratic bottlenecks, several visits and phone calls to the various Local Government Secretariats, we were able to secure venues. In Samaru, we had the full cooperation of the District Head, a kind, soft spoken elderly man, who right after our meeting instructed that a primary school classroom in Saidu Primary School be given to us for the Clinic. He asked for hand bills and posters so that they could be distributed for publicity before the day. It was not so easy in Sabon Gari where the acting Chairman refused to see us directly but referred us to the legal department. After a great deal of explanation as to the aim of our clinic, we were referred to the representative of the District Head who provided a venue at the Iyan Gari’s Office in Sabon Gari. We were particularly impressed by the kindness and cordiality of the Staff of the Zaria Local Government, even though we had to return several times to secure an appointment with the Head of Legal Department. Mallam Tijjani of Zaria Local Government is worth mentioning here, who was always with us at the Secretariat. Eventually we were able to secure a hall right in the Secretariat with the kind and motherly assistance of Hajiya Saadatu of the Legal Department.
Perhaps our most eventful experience was with the Police. In view of the fact that the event was to be held outside the school campus, it was necessary for us to inform the police and request for their participation. At the Zaria Area Command which covers the entire Zaria, we were received quite kindly. We were able to meet with both the Area Commander and the Divisional Police Officer without much protocol. They informed us of all we needed to do and pledged to support the program. We made some friends at the station and even had the calm looking DCO drive us back to Kongo. It came to us as a pleasant surprise that the police could be so nice. However we met a sharp contrast at the Samaru Division. Thinking we would get the same kind reception we got at the area Command, we marched confidently into the police station. Much to our chagrin we were hounded by the policemen on duty. The questions “Who are you?”, “Where from?”, “What do you want?” came so quickly and in an impatient loud voice that we were confused as to which question to answer first. We were asked to bring out our Identity Cards before we were even allowed to say anything. With our spirits dampened, we left the station with a directive to write formally to the DPO. However, a subsequent visit exposed the reason for the initial scare. The station was close to a highway which linked two states, Kaduna and Katsina, as such being a thoroughfare for armed robbers. They thus treat each stranger, especially well dressed as we were, with extra ‘caution’.
Perhaps the greatest task was that of raising funds for the Clinic. We had a scary budget and ten days to find the money. We received a lump sum (which took care of sixty percent of our expenditure), from the Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Adawa a few days to the event. Professor Tawfiq Ladan and Dr. M. N. Maiturare also supported the project immensely. However before that we sourced funds for logistics from our kind lecturers both from the Faculty of Law and beyond.
The event proper started on the 30th of July, 2007 at about 10am. The Zaria Local Government Secretariat Staff were very enthusiastic about the event and gave their full support by way of financial and moral support. There a good many who came from the surrounding communities to receive free legal advice and pour out their problems to us. We were impressed by the sheer number of people who came around. It was however not pleasing to learn how little people knew about the law and their rights. We learnt firsthand how much the common man suffers and is oppressed by the same people who are empowered to protect them.
For Zaria City and its environs, the most prevalent problem was that of rape. Closely following it was divorce and police brutality. We had tears in our eyes as we felt the pain of those who had no where to run to for aid. The problems besetting retired Immigration Officers in Zaria as presented to us by their Zaria Branch Chairman is one such example. Apart from the immediate legal advice we rendered, we were able to link them with a contact at the Legal Aid Council, Kaduna for a concrete solution to their problem of unpaid pensions and gratuities. Each time the clients heaved sighs of relief after having their questions answered, that was our moment of achievement, of joy.
For Sabon Gari their most prevalent problem was that of landlord- tenant relationship. Police brutality and manhandling was also on their list. In Samaru we had a lot of cases of spousal neglect and abuse. Particularly, we were able to assist a neglected woman who had severe problems taking care of children. We were able to begin the process of aid by linking her with WRAPA (Womens Rights And Protection Agency) to help her learn a trade. Eventually we paid a token for her to begin learning Fashion Design/ Tailoring at the United Nations Development Programme Assisted Skill Development Centre in Samaru.
On the whole over a hundred clients benefited from the Legal Clinic. We judged it to be a success not just because men women and children sat before us to ask questions and tell us their personal problems but because of the many smiles that replaced the weary look the clients had when they first came. If all that we did was put smiles on the faces of people, or help one neglected mother or rape victim, we would say we had success.
We look forward to having this program supported by the government and a bit more fully by the University because of its strategic relevance to human development. There can be no meaningful development without human development, for everything- facilities, amenities and industries are made for human beings.
As an aside, the facilitators had fun during the communal meal after every session. We had our own in-house comedian who livened up the members at our dull moments.
The events of the past year have been frenzied. The heights to which our passion to serve take us have sometimes been dizzying. Nonetheless, we have been lifted to a vantage point from where we can properly assess the real needs, concerns and problems of individuals outside our immediate community.
We look forward to the next session where we plan to visit all the prisons in Zaria and hopefully expand our services to include other towns in Nigeria.