In November, NITA sent two faculty, Judge Michael Washington and Geraldine Sumter, to Nigeria in support of an advocacy training program organized by Lawyers Without Borders and the Office of the Public Defender of Lagos State. We’d like to share the opening remarks to this successful program that Olubukola Salami, the director of the Office of the Public Defender, delivered on the first day of the sessions. We are grateful for receiving Mrs. Salami’s permission to share her welcome address with you, along with photos taken during the trainings.
The Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kareem,
The Representative of the Ambassador of the United States of America, Ms. Rosalyn Wiese, the Director, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, The United States Embassy, Abuja,
The Judges of the High Court of Lagos State,
The Judges of the United States of America,
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Justice,
Our Distinguished Guests,
All the Participants,
I am highly delighted and honoured to address you on the occasion of the Trial Advocacy Training Course organized by the Office of the Public Defender in collaboration with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Boulder, Colorado, United States of America.
The Office of the Public Defender (the first in Nigeria) was established on the 24th of July, 2000, to provide qualitative legal aid through free representation in court and to ensure that all persons resident in Lagos State irrespective of means, sex, tribe, or religion have equal access to justice.
Our practice scope cuts across most areas of legal practice consisting of both criminal and civil litigation. This requires that our advocacy skills be optimum. The Office provides legal services for matters in the criminal and civil divisions of the courts sitting in Lagos State. We institute divorce petitions, debt recovery cases in the Magistrate Court, and employee–employer cases at the National Industrial Court, where in a year and a half we have prosecuted over one hundred cases and counting.
As advocates and public defenders, it is important that we represent our clients who are the common man to the best of our abilities, as every Nigerian has a constitutional right guaranteed by section 3(6)(c) and (d) of the 1999 Constitution to representation and participation at the trial of his case.
A lawyer without the basic advocacy skills both for trial purposes and otherwise is a disaster waiting to happen, as he needs to stand for his client and make a convincing case on their behalf before a court.
As an office, we have been keen to raise and improve our advocacy skills as a unit, especially as this office is the only department within the Ministry of Justice that is consistently involved in trials in almost every court across the State.
Ladies and gentlemen, the timing of this training course could not have been more appropriate, with the introduction of Section 268 and 269(1) into the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State 2015 for the first time in Nigeria.
We are quite excited that this reputable international Institute are here in Nigeria to train us and are doing so at no cost to us. We are immensely grateful. At this point, I must extend my sincere appreciation to the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and Lawyers Without Borders who put together such a distinguished team and the Government of the United States of America. We indeed count it as a privilege and a gift. We hope that this would be a continuing collaboration.
It is our expectation that the training would assist us to become better lawyers both inside and outside the courtroom. We hope the training will inspire confidence and improve our capacity as lawyers both for trial purposes and our written addresses.
Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is my singular honour and privilege to welcome you all. Thank you.