According to the President of NULAI, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN), ''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''.
In this stead, the AbsuLawClinic 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, Nigeria, which provides legal services to members of the public who cannot afford it.
NATURE OF CLINIC ACTIVITIES
The student-clinicians usually engage in ‘non for pay’ legal services which involves periodical prison visits to interview indigent pretrial and vulnerable detainees with a view to process their bail application, deserving cases are usually referred to Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, National Bar Association and National Human Rights Commission etc, for purposes of free legal representation afforded by those agencies.
In addition, the students engage in periodical community campaign against human rights abuses and street law sensitization in selected secondary schools and they equally, share legal pamphlet and materials free of charge.
The Law Clinic is patterned like a modern day law firm with its formalities but less rigidity as students are allowed free hands to work independently. This also exposes them to the modus of a contemporary law office, the work load of an ever demanding legal practice, the need for team work and to obey chains of command.
The kind of services the Students usually render are in fact para legal which come in form of consultation/counseling clients, case analysis, legal assistance, research, mediation/conciliation, drafting, report writing, managing client’s files, community/street law sensitization, public speaking in legal workshops etc.
IMPORTANCE OF LAW CLINIC
The activity at the AbsuLawClinic is geared towards supplementing the existing legal aid in Nigeria's criminal justice system and through this means, the problem of prisons congestion is a bit resolved and also the problem of putting juveniles in the same prison with adults is something taken very seriously.
Basically, more manpower is provided and consequently enhances the capacity to attend to more cases deserving immediate attention than regular legal aid schemes.
Through these activities also, students do learn the practical skills needed to excel in the legal profession as against plain theories taught in classes.
According to Alex Nwankwo, a student participant in the scheme, who felt so confident about himself that he "…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''.
''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''.
Also, in the Clinic students learn to be ethically conscious and to imbibe the culture of community service, activism and public service geared towards meeting the prevailing and ever increasing demands and needs of society
STRUCTURE OF THE ABSULAW CLINIC
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 in the clinic includes;
- File Management
- Prison Services (Umuahia and Okigwe)
- Street Law
- Office Management.
The clinic official hours feature every week from Monday to Friday within 8am to 4pm.
The Absu Law Clinic has won several NULAI National competitions and has represented Nigeria thrice at the world stage in Hongkong, Hawai 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.