Source: Joseph Onyekwere
Pro bono lawyers under the aegis of Legal Advocacy Response to Drugs Initiative (LARDI) have assisted 62 indigent drug offenders to resolve difficult legal challenges, leading to their release from correctional centres spread across the country.
The lawyers are also handling another set of 76 drug related cases pending in several Nigerian courts, bringing the total to 138 cases.
LARDI is the first network established in Nigeria by lawyers to provide pro bono (free) services to indigent drug arrestees. According to the group, without this assistance, such drug offenders would languish in correctional facilities for months, if not years, as they cannot afford legal assistance which they are entitled to as Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the lawyers’ network has commended the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and European Union (EU) for their continued technical support which has enabled the network to offer legal assistance to indigent drug arrestees at the first National Executive Meeting held in Abuja from 28 to 30 January 2020.
Speaking at a workshop in Abuja for executives and state representatives of the network, LARDI National Coordinator, Ms. Chinelo Uchendu said the network has also undertaken drug advocacy programmes and offered legal counseling services to many drug arrestees in many correctional centres, adding that “the legal assistance programme has helped many indigent drug arrestees to access legal representation and resolve complex challenges.”
She commended the UNODC and EU “for their technical support to the network which has enabled us to further enhance legal aid services to indigent drug arrestees.”
Speaking earlier on “Drug use in Nigeria,” Mr. William Wu, UNODC Project Officer for the “Response to drugs and related organized crimes in Nigeria” noted that one out of seven Nigerians aged between 15 and 64 years had drug use challenges, adding that the project would build knowledge for justice and health.
On her part, Ms. Bella Anne Ndubuisi, Cultural Affairs Specialist at the United States Embassy in Abuja, urged LARDI members to “strategically identify challenges that need to be addressed” and develop a “step-by-step plan of action to build a sustainable campaign.”
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