Legal Defence and Assistance ProjectLagos, Nigeria
Published April 10, 2008
Reforming Nigeria's Criminal Justice System
Almost 65 percent of Nigeria’s prisoners are detained awaiting trial. Some spend a decade in jail – trapped by poverty, a lack of legal representation, or paperwork lost in an overstretched bureaucracy.
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) offers hope. Established in 1997 by a group of human rights lawyers who had been detained without charge under the military government of General Sani Abacha, LEDAP at first offered support and legal assistance to political prisoners. Since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999, LEDAP’s mission has expanded to defending human rights for all, promoting the rule of law, and improving both the nation’s criminal justice system and its legal framework for protecting human rights.
Based in Lagos, but with four regional offices across Nigeria, LEDAP has now attained national prominence. It has a membership approaching 2,500 and has enlisted 750 lawyers who assist more than 6,000 indigent clients pro bono each year. Over the last six years, it has trained almost 4,000 lawyers, 2,250 prosecutors, and more than 1,000 police staff on human rights norms.
Since LEDAP began its work with the States’ Ministries of Justice, 45 percent more cases are adjudicated. The organization also provides legal assistance to indigent criminal defendants and other victims of human rights violations.
LEDAP was a key part of the National Working Group on the reform of criminal justice in Nigeria which called for sweeping changes to the administration of the justice system to increase efficiency, improve education, and instill a deeper respect for human rights.
In reforming the administration of criminal justice, training government officials, and instilling a respect for the law as a positive element of a healthy democracy, LEDAP is making a vital contribution to Nigeria’s aspirations for a society that respects the rule of law.
LEDAP will use its $500,000 grant to establish a resource center for law and human rights in the Federal Capital of Nigeria, Abuja.
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