The Nigerian Bar Association is partnering the Justice Research Institute (JRI) to promote access to pro bono services.

It signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the institute in Abuja.

NBA President Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) said the promotion of pro bono was aimed at building confidence in the courts.

He said: “We have in the last year and a half pursued aggressive public interest engagements in a number of areas and this entirely falls within that broad framework.

“We have prioritised the Northeast and the Niger Delta regions, but we are mindful of other regions because we are interested in access to justice, human rights protection and provision of pro bono legal services.

“We recognise that there is serious demand for these services and we are very delighted to encourage lawyers to show interest and commitment to these services to members of the public.’’

The deal signed with the institute, Mahmoud said, was one of many by the association.

“The NBA entered into some MoUs with some partners, some of which are related to training for our members while others were on the provision of pro bono services.

“I believe that this partnership would wax strong and translate to putting smiles on the face of Nigerians who benefit from the services,” Mahmoud said.

JRI Executive Director Mr Ikem Isiekwene, who signed for his organisation, said the MoU was borne out of the realisation that societal structures were full of inequalities and that many Nigerians were ignorant of their rights.

He said: “We live in demanding times with an increasing population and a significant number of the populace impoverished, who also do not know their rights or how to access these rights.

“So, we can only expect that the interaction within this space will lead to the need to protect rights were there are obvious violations.

‘’The objective is to deepen pro bono practice within the legal profession across Nigeria by establishing a system that leveraged private sector resources to help increase access to legal resources for more disadvantaged individuals and groups.’’

He said the institute and the NBA, with the support of the Open Society For West Africa (OSIWA), intended to institutionalise a pro bono initiative that connected demand and supply for free legal services.

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