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WHAT IS LEGAL AID?

Legal Aid is the assistance provided freely by the Legal Aid Council to people
who cannot afford Legal representatives either because they are unemployed
or earn very little money. It is the provision of assistance to people otherwise
unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal
aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality
before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial. Legal Aid
ranges from rendering Legal service through consultation, advice or
representation in Courts. Other non-governmental Legal service
organizations also provide Legal Aid Service to complement the services
being rendered by the (LAC) 'Council'.
WHY LEGAL ASSISTANCE?
Legal assistance is important for the following reasons:

Court proceedings are technical, complex and confusing. Therefore, it


is important that a Lawyer who will assist in understanding the
procedures should always represent a lay-person.

Legal assistance is also important for purpose of speeding the


proceedings in Court. This is because legal representatives do not need
an explanation of what is going on in Court and therefore saves time.

Clients also need the assistance of Legal representatives to ensure that


justice is fairly applied.

HOW TO OBTAIN LEGAL AID?


Below is an outline of steps to be followed when seeking legal assistance.
STEP 1
Legal Aid Officer (LAO), from time to time, contact Awaiting Trial Persons
(ATPs) in Prison custody or suspected offenders in Police custody to take
applications for Legal Aid. In a Criminal case, the Magistrate or Judge informs
the Accused of his/her right to a Lawyer if by any reason he/she did not come
in contact with LAO before the trial.
In a Civil matter, the Complainant i.e. the Plaintiff has to visit any of the
Legal Aid Officers spread across the country to lay his/her complaints and
make arrangements with LAO. (An Accused in the Criminal case or a
complainant in a Civil case or action is not prevented from choosing a Lawyer

of his/her preference if the circumstances of the matter make it imperative to


do so).
STEP 2
Once a Lawyer has been appointed to assist the Accused (in Criminal matter)
or a Complainant (in a civil matter) the consultation process between the
Lawyer and the Accused or Complainant begins. Thereafter the Lawyer
prepares his/her case, to represent his/her client properly.
STEP 3
The Court proceedings now begin with the Accused or Complainant being
represented or assisted by a Lawyer or Advocate. The Council is promoting
alternative dispute resolution through mediation between parties in civil
cases. This initiative enhances speedy resolution of disputes without let or
hindrance.

APPLICATION PROCESS
HOW AND WHEN TO SEEK LEGAL ASSISTANCE

A person wishing to apply for Legal Aid goes to the Legal Aid office in
the State or Local Government where he/she resides.

She/he has to request for such assistance when he/she has a case
coming before a Court. Alternatively, a person has to seek for legal
assistance if he/she needs legal advice.

She/he must be seized of the facts of the case/matter or be in a


position to present the facts and the particulars of the other who is
physically not present.

She/he has to complete Application Forms for legal aid (LAC2 Criminal
or LAC 3 Civil) given to him/her by the LAO, who amongst other things
will require him/herself to furnish him with necessary information about
himself/herself. If the person is unable to read or write, the LAO will
complete the forms.

After the person's application has been approved, he/she is assigned a


Lawyer to represent him/her in the matter.*The appointed Lawyer will
then render legal services to that person.

WHO CAN APPLY FOR LEGAL AID?


Indigent person is qualified to apply for legal assistance. Such a person, must
either be unemployed and/or without an income. If he/she is employed
he/she must be earning a very low salary (Not above the national minimum
wage). There is a particular test, which is applied by the Legal Aid Officer to
determine whether a client qualifies for legal assistance by the Legal Aid
Council. This test is called the means test.
THE MEANS TEST
According to this test, a person seeking Legal Aid must have no income of
any type or if he does, must be earning the national minimum wage or
below. However, Legal Aid can still be granted on contributory basis if the
applicant's income is more than the minimum wage subject to paying Legal
Aid Council certain percentage of the income. Legal Aid may not be given to
a person, if the Legal Aid Council is satisfied that the applicant has sufficient
money or assets to pay his/her legal costs.

NATURE OF CASES HANDLED BY THE LEGAL AID COUNCIL


The Legal Aid Council handles both Criminal and Civil matters, in addition to
rendering ancillary services that any Lawyer may deem fit and proper to
perform in any given case/matter.
What is the difference between Criminal and Civil matters?
The difference between the two is that a criminal matter is an offence
committed by a person against the State which is usually contested in a
Court of Law between the State and the Accused person, while a Civil matter
is a case or action instituted by a complainant/plaintiff against the
defendant/ respondent seeking to enforce a Private or Civil right alleged to
have been breached.
DOES A CLEINT HAVE THE RIGHT TO A LAWYER OF HIS OWN CHOICE?
Yes, to some extent, if the need arises. Legal Aid Council will oblige him/her a
Lawyer of his/her choice if the circumstances of his/her case is so dictated.
Have you been arrested and brought to Police Station? Call Legal Aid Lawyer;
they will stand by your side.
THE LEGAL AID COUNCIL HANDLES THE FOLLOWING CRIMINAL CASES

CRIMINAL CODE

PENAL CODE

1 Murder

Culpable homicide
punishable with
death

2 Manslaughter

Culpable homicide
not punishable with
death

Maliciously or willfully wounding or


inflicting grievous or inflicting
3 grievous bodily harm
Grievous Hurt

Assault occasioning actual bodily


4 harm

Criminal force
occasioning Actual
bodily hurt

5 Affray

Affray

6 Stealing

Theft

7 Rape

Rape

8 Armed Robbery

Armed Robbery

Aiding and abetting or counseling or procuring the


commission of, or being an accessory before or after the
fact to, or attempting or conspiring, to commit any of the
9 offences listed above.
LEGAL AID COUNCIL ALSO HANDLES THE FOLLOWING CIVIL CASES
1. Civil claims in respect of accidents, (all types of accident), Legal Aid
Council is in partnership with the Federal Road Safety Commission
(FRSC), Vehicle Inspection Offices (VIO), Ministry of Health and National
Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to provide legal assistance to victims

of road accidents through its One-Stop-Claims-Shop for Victims of


Motor Accidents (OSCAR) Unit.
2. Civil claims arising from breach of fundamental rights enshrined in
Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
3. Civil Claims arising from criminal activities against persons who are
qualified for Legal Aid under the Act.
4. Mediation on disputes on various issues such as Landlord/Tenant,
Master/Servant, Employer/Employee, Husband/Wife, inheritance and
family matters etc.

Category of Services provided by Legal Aid Council:


1. Representation at the Police Station and in Courts.
2. Advice and assistance (written or in conference) including writing
letter, negotiating, mediation etc.
3. Provide a wide range of services which include Legal counseling,
financial/welfare assistance to a target group namely, women and
children either standing trial or in custody, payment of convicts fines,
and integration into the society and provision of Mobile Legal Aid
Clinics.